Much has been made of the Socceroos form since their spirited but ultimately fruitless World Cup campaign. A string of lacklustre performances and an opaque selection policy from coach Ange Postecoglou have many fans fearing that January’s Asian Cup on home soil could end in embarrassment.
The Socceroos’ latest result was a 2-1 defeat to Asian rivals Japan in Osaka on Tuesday night. A promising first half was followed by a poor second, with set pieces Australia’s undoing for both goals. So where do the Socceroos go from here?
At the time of writing Postecoglou has 51 days before his side face Kuwait in the opening match of the Asian Cup, and the players admit that there is work to be done while also stressing that there are positives from the loss to the Japanese.
Left back Aziz Behich was pleased with the performance on offer.
“We kept our structure, we didn’t get stretched and we were on top of them I think for 45 [minutes] and kept most of the ball. There’s a lot of good signs,” Behich said.
Behich, who will celebrate his 24th birthday next month, then said that the Socceroos did well against such a talented Japan team.
“They’ve got a lot of quality in their side and they showed it at times. We knew it was going to be a tough match and I think we did match them for most of the game.
“It’s always disappointing to concede on a set piece, it’s just a lack of concentration.”
Despite the loss, the Bursaspor defender was confident with the Asian Cup just around the corner.
“We’ll go back to the drawing board and see where we went wrong and come Asian Cup there’s a lot of positives going forward.
“We’ve got a gameplan set and we’re still going to work towards that, as a collective we do believe in how we’re playing and what we want to achieve and come Asian Cup I think we’ll show that.”
Socceroos and Crystal Palace captain Mile Jedinak also spoke to the media following the defeat.
“I thought the boys did really well in the first half and we imposed ourselves on the game, had them on the back foot for large periods,” Jedinak said after winning his 52nd national team cap.
“We definitely can take a lot [of positives] particularly from that first half where we played large majorities of that game in their half, in front of their own fans.”
When asked about the mistakes defending set pieces, Jedinak was philosophical.
“It’s good that it’s happened now and not in two month’s time. They’re things that we’re going to work on no doubt.
“We take all that on board and we get it right for January,” he said of the set piece issues.
Jedinak reiterated that despite a negative result, there were good signs in the performance.
“There’s still a lot of very encouraging things particularly during that first half and even the reaction after the goals…It’s still really disappointing not to come away with anything.”
When asked if the display gave the team confidence, Jedinak said the Socceroos can perform against anyone.
“We didn’t fall too short, it was a good account of ourselves and if we keep doing that we believe we can mix it with everybody.
He was the asked if this team could reach the final and Jedinak had no hesitation in answering.
“There’s no doubt about it, no doubt about it.”