Australia v Chile
Russell Degnan

Expectations were low at this world cup. After the maulings by Brazil and France that led to managerial change and the grim acceptance that the old guard was done, and the group draw that could barely have been more difficult, none thought Australia anything but rank outsiders to progress. A draw in any game would perhaps count as a success, a good showing sufficient to provide hope in a young side. Against Chile, we got the latter, but we shouldn't be happy.

To anyone that asked I said we'd probably come away from the first match asking "what if". This wasn't based on prevailing form but a long history. Australia rarely fail to rise (or fall) to their opponents. They've done so against better teams than Chile, with less technically accomplished players. But they also rarely fail to concede soft goals, or come away from the inevitable defeat with the local media back-slapping them for going toe to toe with a superior teams.

Here is the point though, one I've made before and will again: unless you get the result, who cares?

Honourable losses still see you to the exit. And what-if losses based on a persistent failure to keep the opposition out aren't that honourable. They are a failure to reach your potential.

Australia could not have started worse. Whether for nerves or the raucous Chilean anthem, it took two concessions before they managed more than two controlled touches. The immediate turnovers making it easy for Chile to maintain a press even in the heat. Both goals combined some Chilean skill with defensive panic. The first should never have led to an open shot, the second had two defenders chasing one man. Two mistakes, two goals. Even the best team in the world would struggle from there.

Fortunately the goals seemed to give Australia time to regroup. Theirs is a simple tactic. Get wide where they have pace and space; cross to Cahill. But Bresciano is the key. The only player capable of killing the ball in traffic and distributing. He is let down by too few players finding space close enough to provide an outlet or quick return ball. Once he worked his way into the game, Australia was matching Chile through the midfield.

For the next hour, Australia, as widely noted, played well, and in the manner of socceroos teams gone by: aggressive (both Milligan and Jedinak were booked), fast and dangerous on the cross. They have little else and Chile eventually shut down the distribution from the wings. Australia were arguably unlucky not to equalise by then, but this is the tactic of a side who holds firm and wins on the break, not one chasing the game. Chile could afford the extra defenders.

What Postecoglou will do against the Dutch is a mystery as they are set up to completely negate Australia's width, and their three man attack will feast on errors. Against Spain, and in the warmups they played the ball quickly from deep, which could signal an ugly, but frenetic game if both sides abandon any sort of buildup through the midfield. That could suit Australia. Despite the opening matches, the Netherlands remains Australia's best chance of a result.

Football 15th June, 2014 20:18:34   [#] 


Australia v Chile
While I don't have a great interest in soccer, World Cup time is exciting and that was a good coverage.
Andrew  15th June, 2014 22:54:06