Roos must learn art of tournament play

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    Australia has learned how to qualify for World Cups, now we must learn how to play them.

    There was never any question about how much ticker the Socceroos can show on the field once the national anthems die down.

    But the next step for Australia to develop as a footballing nation is learning the art of tournament play, which let the Socceroos down in South Africa.

    There are characteristics that mark the great tournament teams – the ones who will be at the business end of this World Cup.

    No matter who you play – even against teams who are tearing you to shreds or threaten to – there will be a chance some time in that 90 minutes to score or otherwise change the destiny of the game.

    The best teams historically – Brazil, Italy, Germany and Argentina – take their chances at critical times in tournaments.

    They are ruthless when the half-chance comes.

    Their rivals aren’t.

    Great tournament teams don’t lose their opening matches at World Cups. They certainly don’t lose them 4-0 like Australia did.

    Great tournament teams can adapt their strategies. Just as Germany went out to batter Australia first-up to set out their stall, then did only what they needed to do in their final group match against Ghana.

    Brazil did as much as necessary against an opponent like North Korea in game one, then lifted a gear against a far better side in Ivory Coast because they needed to.

    The Socceroos still have plenty of work to do in these areas.

    Pim Verbeek’s successor – whoever he may be – should be a person skilled in the the finer points of tournament play as well as the art of guiding teams through qualifying.

    In pure match result terms, the Socceroos have equalled their 2006 group effort – one win, one draw and one loss – in 2010.

    Why aren’t they in the round of 16 again? Wrong order this time.

    Verbeek’s selection butchery against Germany and the players’ failure to come to grips with what he wanted in that game – whatever that might have been – killed their tournament.

    As a long-time assistant coach, Verbeek’s only tournament play experience was guiding South Korea to the 2007 Asian Cup semis – another tournament Australia couldn’t get to grips with.

    The Socceroos can at least console themselves with the old chestnuts of courage, bravery, character and punching above their weight as they make their ways home.

    For the next two weeks, real tournament teams will be going at it. The Socceroos need to tap into what those teams are doing, and how they’ve done it.

    Because that skill is needed to take Australian soccer to the next level.

    © AAP 2018
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