The Socceroos had the chance to scoot nine points clear of Japan in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday night in Saitama.
The sporting public seems content with Australia’s three defeats at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
While a couple of honourable defeats might be enough for us commoners, the words coming from the Socceroos camp are of a team wanting more.
For instance, after the Chile game, coach Ange Postecoglou said on ABC’s The Offsiders that he, and the squad, thought the game was an “opportunity missed”. His body language conveyed that message too.
The players feel the same disappointment. Young keeper Mat Ryan told AAP, “Conceding three goals in every game just isn’t good enough. It’s a real eye-opener and I have to work really hard on my game to improve.”
At the end of the Spanish game, Alex Wilkinson looked despondent.
The coach has since said to AAP, “When opposition coaches start bagging us, I’ll be even happier than when they’re praising us. That will mean we’re really making inroads.”
It is important to point out that Postecoglou has not been bagging his charges, but he wants more.
It all seems rather strange given that the fans, and CEO David Gallop, have called the World Cup campaign a success. I’m in that boat, having enjoyed watching a Socceroos team full of attacking intent. Usually the fans are more critical than they should be after three losses, but the situation here is in reverse.
Make no mistake; this is a good thing for our national team. There is no point having a young team if they do not want to do better, or believe they can. It seems that Postecoglou has instilled both will and belief in his young team. It is a great situation for the team, they are hungry for success yet relatively unburdened by expectation.
I hope in the future the term “honourable defeat” will no longer be part of our football lexicon, and near misses against higher ranked opponents will no longer surprise us.
The late Socceroos captain Johnny Warren said in 2004, “I’m sick of us saying, ‘When are we going to qualify for the World Cup?’ [Instead of] ‘When are we going to win the World Cup?'”.
Now we have a national team that wants to improve, and not just be at the big tournament. Perhaps we have taken a bigger step than we realise.