Socceroos vs Thailand: World Cup Qualifier preview and prediction

Stuart Thomas Roar Guru

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    I’ve always admired the pig headedness in Ange Postecoglou. It isn’t necessarily a negative trait in people.

    Sticking to your core beliefs when faced with immense adversity is something that we could all aspire to.

    However, what if the foundation of those core beliefs starts to look a little fragile? A little frail?
    Potentially wrong?

    The Socceroos manager has persisted with his defensive system which we saw for the first time in
    the qualifiers prior to the Confederations Cup.

    It was a revolutionary decision and the results have been mixed. Despite having persisted with it through the year, its stunning ineffectiveness against Japan, combined with a constant feeling of angst that the paying public have towards the tactic, has many calling for a change.

    Last week’s two-nil loss to Japan was, no doubt, a poor result. What should always be remembered,
    however, is the fact that Japan are a quality team, played at home and tactically, the Socceroos were
    outwitted.

    Now for the first time in the campaign, Australia’s fate lies beyond their own performance and Saudi Arabia have the chance to lock up an automatic qualifying place with a win against Japan.

    Hours earlier, the Socceroos will have grappled with the tricky Thais in a game many assume they will win comfortably. Nothing would please me more, yet casting my mind back to the previous clash with Thailand in November, I am not so sure.

    Sure it was a gluey deck, sure we were away from home and yes, Thailand are a more formidable challenge
    on their own soil, however, with the ball at their feet and if allowed to exploit Australia’s lack of speed and dexterity at the back, they could easily trouble the home team.

    While many fans of the green and gold are lamenting the two points lost on our visit to the Rajamangala
    Stadium, the fact is, the Socceroos were extremely lucky to get the one point they did manage to bring home.

    After conceding an early lead, it was only a late penalty from Mile Jedinak that claimed that point and despite the ladder which suggests the Thais have been a pushover throughout the qualifying campaign, they were impressive.

    So how does Postecoglou go about this clash, considering the pressure of the moment, the personnel at his disposal and the dented confidence in the squad after the horror of Saitama?

    Brad Smith has copped a battering in the media and will probably make way for Alex Gersbach. Matthew
    Ryan also came under criticism for what appeared some poor and choreographed decisions that showed little or no flexibility dependent on the situation.

    Brad Smith Australia Football Socceroos 2017

    (AAP Image/Matt Roberts)

    Whether Postecoglou sticks with his number one in an attempt to rebuild his confidence or makes a change won’t, however, be the determining factor in this game.

    What will be far more important, is the Socceroos’ ability to create some combinations through the midfield and danger on the ball, rather than replicating the impotent and clumsy team that wandered aimlessly into the front third in Japan.

    Robbie Kruse and James Troisi were the focus of much media attention and need to produce far more in
    attack, however their irrelevance wasn’t all of their own making with Tom Rogic and Jackson Irvine failing to provide anything of concrete value off which the men up front could feed.

    It would be easy, yet foolish, to think that the inclusion of Aaron Mooy will be some sort of magic elixir that reignites the Socceroos attack.

    There is no doubt he is a future star and potentially our most valuable asset yet there were more alarming signals during his absence than the mere fact that he wasn’t there.

    The ball needs to move more quickly, particularly through the centre of the park and the Socceroos need to complete passes with a slightly higher level of risk.

    When they look stodgy and ruffled, the passing becomes ultra-conservative and it is hard to see any potential avenues to goal.

    The use of more width will also add to the danger they present and this comes about with wing backs
    providing aggressive runs down the flanks and being able to link up with the front men more consistently.

    Aaron Mooy Football Australia Socceroos 2017

    (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

    Australia’s goal will be quite a simple one. Firstly win the game. Secondly, win it by as many as possible in an attempt to claw back any goal difference deficit that exists after the Samurai Blue have battled with the Saudis.

    Talk of putting four or five passed the Thais is premature and disrespectful to them. With new manager
    Milovan Rajevac rejuvenating their defense and some recent and impressive clean sheets, the visitors will not be as easy to break down as some commentators have suggested.

    Blessed with speed and creativity in attack, despite lacking true class and poise, Thailand will still provide something of a challenge for the much maligned back three of the Socceroos.

    Intense and frantic pressure always ruffles the feathers of the Aussies and the Thais will bring that in spades.

    It would be naïve to ignore the fact that they have the weapons to trouble and score against what looks a slightly fragile defense, both physically and emotionally.

    The Socceroos will either click back into gear and compile a performance that instills some faith back into the fans or produce something more lackluster that endorses some of the doubts held around the squad.

    Even a somewhat insipid performance might be good enough to get the Australians through, if our respected Japanese friends play true to form and roll the Saudis.

    Either way, it will be an anxious wait for the nation and a wait that we all know, didn’t need to occur. The chance was there to avoid this situation and the stress levels are self-induced to some extent.

    After three successful qualification campaigns in succession, it will feel strange if things all turn pear-shaped and the national team’s run in major competitions is stunted.

    Frankly, that can’t be allowed happen. The Socceroos are the jewel in the crown and Australian football cannot afford such a failure.

    Let’s hope Postecoglou sticks his head in the sand again, doesn’t read any press and refuses to budge one more time.

    Prediction

    If the players can execute the plan correctly, which seems a bit hit and miss at this stage, the Socceroos might just scrape through the mine field they have created for themselves.

    For what it is worth, the Socceroos at home is a tough proposition for the Thais. They will start well with high energy levels and match the Socceroos early.

    Realistically, the Australians should be able to find ways to break down the visitors and a two-nil victory seems a likely result.