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Patience, press and penetration: the Socceroos continue to impress

The FFA need a new coach to replace Ange Postecoglou. (Image: AAP/Joe Castro)
Expert
13th January, 2015
131
2082 Reads

Things are ticking along very smoothly for Ange Postecoglou and his Socceroos after another very controlled and impressive performance against Oman at Homebush last night.

With eight different goal-scorers for their two games, five of those coming from the six midfielders used so far, one can see the team has already evolved from the one that has relied so heavily on Tim Cahill for goals during the World Cup and friendlies since.

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The goals and the myriad of other opportunities being created are ultimately are reflection of the type of football being produced, and the great sign here is this performance was an improvement on that from the opening night.

The even contribution across the pitch, with barely a poor player, shows the head-space this team is in.

While the start was measured as the Socceroos assessed what looked a well prepared opponent, once the team lifted the tempo and found a solution in behind Oman’s wingbacks there was no stopping them.

The foundation, as Postecouglou touched upon during his post match press conference was the high octane pressing of Oman in their own half.

They didn’t give Paul Le Guen side a sniff, swarming on every Omani touch and pressing them into submission.

Once they had it the ball-movement was quick and incisive, and the movement of ball and body from Australia’s physically superior side was too much for Oman.

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The hope for Roos fans is that the team hasn’t peaked too early and continues to build on the work of the past five days when it takes on South Korea on Saturday for top spot in the group.

On the evidence of this and what Uli Stielike’s men have produced in the opening two games, the Socceroos should feel confident about controlling and troubling Korea, and Postecoglou will strive for improvement and ensure the players don’t get complacent.

In truth, that hasn’t looked like happening so far this tournament. The mental side of Australia’s game appears to be right on song, a vast improvement on recent times.

They look a team in tune with the game plan, high on confidence, thinking their way through.

One of the things that has  been evident in the opening two games is just how big a part patience is playing in the Socceroos game plan.

In both games they have started slowly as their opponents came out with attacking purpose, but the Socceroos haven’t panicked.

Rather than panic when Kuwait scored their opener in Melbourne, the Socceroos worked their way back into the game before half time and eventually wore out their physically inferior opponent.

Again, last night, Oman came with plan which for 20 minutes looked to be working a treat. Knowing they couldn’t lose, Le Guen’s men started extremely well.

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After an early period on the front foot which produced a great Mat Ryan save from Raed Saleh, they retreated into a defensive 5-3-2 structure, which made life difficult for the Roos.

Getting bodies behind the ball, with the wingbacks Saleh and Ali Sulaiman Al Busaidi pressing up on Jason Davidson and Ivan Franjic, they posed a serious puzzle which the Roos eventually answered with aplomb.

Soon enough Mat Leckie, Robbie Kruse and Tim Cahill were breaking into the space behind the wingbacks, stretching the three man central defence of Abdul Sallam Al Mukhaini, Jaber Al Owaisi and Mohammed Al-Musalami.

It was this stretching out wide which yielded the corner that led to Matt McKay’s opener.

Once the goal came, so did the space, and after a beautiful bit skill in his own half a few minutes earlier, Mass Luongo continued on his fine form from Melbourne by turning sharply inside to set up a flying Kruse.

Kruse plays as an inside-winger who likes to drift in and combine and drive through the middle. He has added a dimension that the Socceroos lacked in Brazil by having Tommy Oar play as a more traditional wide winger.

With the fullbacks also pushing high, and I thought Davidson did well here despite the lack of respect game time, there is a flowing dynamism to this team that the physically weaker Kuwaitis and Omanis struggled to live with.

Yet for all the Socceroos offensive domination (they completed 700 passes to Oman’s 308), there were still a couple of moments early in the first half which required a flying Ryan save and a timely interception from Ivan Franjic ahead of Abdul Aziz Al-Maqbali.

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These interventions from Ryan and Franjic showed that the team continues to evolve, with concentration at the back a critical element when dominating.

In Brazil and during the recent friendlies those moments might have led to goals. But here the concentration was better, and the Socceroos were able to stay focused and snuff out the opportunities.

Even in the second half, as Oman dropped one wingback and went to a back four, the Roos were able to stay disciplined and control their opponent.

The fact Postecoglou was able to rotate Tomi Juric so early for Cahill, for the second game on the spin, was a great luxury, while the manager showed how influential Luongo has become by also giving him an opportunity to rest his legs.

So in tune with his work is Postecoglou that only three of his 20 outfield players have yet to taste action, and one, Chris Herd, is injured. Don’t be surprised to see Terry Antonis and Alex Wilkinson get some time on Saturday.

This is a manager and team that many have questioned over the past few months, but after showing some good signs in Japan a couple of months ago they have answer these questions emphatically so far in this tournament.

Fans are again falling in love with their Roos, and will undoubtedly be looking forward to seeing if the momentum can continue against South Korea on Saturday.

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