The newest edition of the Confederations Cup has kicked-off and Asia is still waiting for a successful opener since Japan battered New Zealand 3-0 fourteen years ago. This time around, it was no Japan vs Brazil (0:3 at the last edition), but it could’ve easily been as the Socceroos bagged two mitigating goals only through mistakes from Bernd Leno. Here are the five things Tom Danicek (sort of) learned about Australia from yesterday…
1) Ange’s Socceroos are becoming increasingly known as notoriously slow starters
And that’s obviously not good news with regards to the World Cup, especially as those sleepy starts have been a thing reserved mostly for high-profile games when expectations are high and nerves are tense.
The 2014 World Cup premiere, with the two allowed goals within the first quarter of an hour; the Asian Cup opener on home soil with *that* set piece; key qualifiers vs Saudi Arabia (away) and Japan (home) where Postecoglou’s men managed to fall behind inside the first five minutes; the disastrous starts to the recent huge friendly tests with Brazil and England; only a tad better openings of another two seriously taken friendlies vs Germany and Greece, where the Socceroos had withheld themselves from leaking for only eight and 17 minutes respectively…
… and now this. There’s a pattern, amongst them. And the Australian inability to lead at half-time against Iraq (home), Thailand (away) and Saudi Arabia (home) somehow finishes off the whole picture, with the fact they had taken an early lead in the latter two games making the #numbers only more peculiar.
Bloody first halfs, eh?
2) If you’re not going to mould a genuine CM partnership, then just don’t roll with this formation
The absence of Mile Jedinak is unfortunate for sure. Even though yours truly finds the veteran’s importance to the Socceroos somewhat overstated at times, it’s undeniable he was an important cog for this formation to work towards the oh so important home wins against the UAE and Saudi Arabia. His positional cautiousness and internationally tested experience are still second to none in this side, hence he remains an asset – especially, if not only, as long as Postecoglou rolls out the 3-2-4-1.
However, when you don’t have a Jedinak, why would you at the same time make the situation worse by not using Jackson Irvine, who was also vital in gathering those six points? What was Mass Luongo supposed to do as Milligan’s initial partner? Why was Milligan sometimes helping with build-up as a false LCB, but was nowhere near to be found helping out the struggling pair of Behich and Wright to neutralize Kimmich and Brandt? How was Draxler allowed to dribble some 40 metres through the middle? How does it happen that Aaron Mooy, of all people, tracks back the Germans most often?
When you’re clearly not ready to put enough effort in dishing out instructions and coordinating your midfield trio, or unwilling to use his direct natural replacement in James Jeggo, then just don’t go with this formation and – since you can’t make up for his absence – simply wait for Jedinak.
3) Luongo and Mooy uncover their limits at this level
Massimo Luongo enjoyed probably his worst day in a national team jersey and, well, these things obviously happen. At the same time, though, one must feel this could have well been a signature “Big Stage” Luongo performance. Largely anonymous and bashful against Brazil too, the Asian Cup hero has just seemed overwhelmed by the constant movement of quality opponents both in and out of possession.
And more or less the same, worryingly, goes for Aaron Mooy. On his Confederations Cup debut, Mooy seemingly turned the ball over more times than he had throughout his whole career, mostly given that, apart from second half passages when the opponent couldn’t be bothered to press, his first three steps were always too slow, getting him routinely trapped.
But sure, even our very own Iniesta can be caught out on a rare off day. Only that, again, you don’t just lose your pace when nervous. These two individual performances from two very talented guys might as well have simply uncovered their long-lasting limits – a ceiling, if you will. Everyone does have one after all.
4) Tommy Rogić, on the other hand, is the proper jewel of this side
After the Asian Cup, we all thought Mass Luongo was the diamond of this side. Then there was the steep rise of Aaron Mooy catching our attention. And meanwhile, the media-shy Tom Rogić has been rather quietly proving himself night in night out, usually emitting rare confidence and only this month fittingly bagging the cute key winner against Saudis. Confidence especially rare yesterday when the Celtic star, again, looked by far the most assured piece of the Ange jigsaw.
His goal was anything but great, despite our initial reactions (based, surely, on the usual high standard of his goals first and foremost), but it’s fair to acknowledge that no Aussie had even found himself in that area on the edge of the penalty box prior to Rogić’s run.
The midfielder’s first touch, above all, was what set him apart from any other teammate – where Mooy was losing his advantage, Rogić was gathering it. And where others, Behich most notably, seemingly lost belief in their ordinary pass even before its release, Rogić was making daring plays. Now, if only his personality, allowed him to translate this sort of healthy confidence onto others. If only…
5) Distribution from the back should never be such an issue, not now
Australia have one easily solvable, but particularly painful problem at the moment, only more accentuated by the special requirements of this formation: their three centre backs do not communicate. Like… at all. Or so it seems. And it doesn’t show only off the ball when dealing with balls over the top, pull backs (oh how easy it was for Germany to get behind the line in the first half!), but also on the ball, when nobody is being made aware of an opponent chasing him down from behind and when nobody is being offered cover and encouraged to run with the ball to distribute it higher up.
(This was way into the second half…)
How the hell does it happen that when you have three centre backs and Milligan, who was essentially acting like another centre half in patches, you don’t seem to find an adventurous distributor among them as was the case for the whole passage of play when Germany were still all-round active. And how does that happen with Trent Sainsbury in place in particular?
Again: confidence was nowhere to be seen. And so both Behich and Leckie were ever so often getting trapped with the ball deep down, in a fullback position, cut out by Germans because the CB trio wouldn’t dare to try a thing…