What we learned from Socceroos vs France

David Schout Columnist

By David Schout, David Schout is a Roar Expert

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    Three minutes after the Socceroos’ heartbreaking 2-1 loss in Kazan, skipper Mile Jedinak pulled his troops aside after shaking hands with the victorious French side.

    Addressing them arm-in-arm in a 23-man circle, he delivered a pointed message that received determined applause from a side that had just lost its opening World Cup clash.

    Its contents were simple: we’re still on track, and today’s performance proved what we’re doing is working. He reiterated these points minutes later in an interview with SBS.

    “We just didn’t have that luck. That’s football, we have to take the positives out of today and move on,” he said.

    “If we maintain that form and discipline, structure, concentration throughout, let’s see where it gets us. I can’t fault the boys tonight.”

    It was the perfect message from a leader: acknowledge the disappointment and move on immediately. Jedinak’s big-picture response was somewhat in contrast with that of his coach Bert van Marwijk, who lamented the rub-of-the-green in Kazan.

    Without question the coach’s mood in front of the players could have been more reflective and, like Jedinak, would have asserted the importance of mentally grasping the next task.

    The 2-1 result changes nothing in Australia’s pursuit of progressing from the group stage. Even the more optimistic members of the Socceroos camp would acknowledge that the French game was going to be exceedingly difficult to get something out of.

    As it turned out, the Socceroos were hugely unlucky not to, with technology aiding a French opener which is still being debated by Australian and world football fans alike (for mine, it was a penalty). But the 2-1 loss is a positive not just for the admirable performance, but for the fact it was by just one goal.

    Group stage progression – as was the case in 2010 – is often decided by goal difference. Former Socceroos keeper Mark Schwarzer reiterated the importance of the one-goal margin post-game.

    “Goal difference is massive,” he said.

    “We saw it in 2010, that first game killed us losing 4-0 to Germany. You pretty much have to win your next two games.”

    Eight years ago the Socceroos finished the group stage equal on four points with Ghana, but their -3 goal difference (compared with Ghana’s goal difference of 0), ensured they were on the plane home early.

    If France beat both Denmark and Peru by more than one goal, the Socceroos are in with a big chance of moving into the round of 16 should they turn in strong performances in the next fortnight. And given the relatively lacklustre performance by Les Bleus in last night’s opener, it’s likely their ‘billion dollar’ side will kick into gear in games two and three of the group stage. We can but hope.

    Without predicting the thought-process of Bert van Marwijk and his coaching setup, it’s likely they are targeting four points; a win and a draw in the next two games. And the performance in France does nothing to suggest that’s not impossible.

    Structurally, the Socceroos were immense in Kazan. Trent Sainsbury’s performance was nothing short of superb – one of Australia’s best ever individual defensive performances. Aaron Mooy was equally immense, clearly receptive to van Marwijk’s preference for a mobile, laterally shifting defensive midfield option. France captain Hugo Lloris paid tribute to Australia’s ‘compact defending’ post-game.

    Saudi Arabia's defender Mukhtar Fallatah (R) vies with Australia's defender Trent Sainsbury

    (AFP PHOTO/GLYN KIRK)

    It was defensive poetry in motion for large parts of the game. Certainly for van Marwijk, who reiterated during the Antalya training camp his desire for fitness, structure and discipline. As a coaching gun for hire, he has been contracted to get results, not employ an enduring footballing philosophy. And given his short time with the squad, it’s clear his players have bought into it.

    This philosophy starts from the top down; the fact that Socceroos number nine Andrew Nabbout had just four touches to half-time is emblematic of that. Naturally, the playing style adopted in Kazan won’t win many games, but the performance revealed a side with the temperament, fitness and concentration that will be tough to break down.

    If the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann struggled to find pockets of space, then so will anything Denmark and Peru can throw up.

    David Schout
    David Schout

    David Schout is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist who has written and reported for the likes of The Guardian, the ICC, Sportsbet, and AFL Media. You can follow him on Twitter at @david_schout.

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    The Crowd Says (101)

    • June 17th 2018 @ 7:49am
      stu said | June 17th 2018 @ 7:49am | ! Report

      Ausralia played very well in defence, i think best since 2006. The weaker nations first game is alwasys going to be their ‘cup final’, the heavyweights pace themselves and this was th ecase last night. Very glad they did not disgrace themselves, however the French left back did in the closing stages holding his head in agony when the challenge was no where near his head. Perhaps the VAR would be better served in this area.
      On further reflection……France were terrible.

      • June 17th 2018 @ 8:29am
        Kangas said | June 17th 2018 @ 8:29am | ! Report

        France were terrible

        Because Australia didn’t allow them to be brilliant

        I think we pay way too much respect to these Prima donnas at times .

        The game was there to be won by Australia with 20 minutes to go . Had arzani come on then or even Cahill, we had a chance to win

        The professional foul on juric was pivotal.

        A good performance by Australia , but an opportunity lost to best France .

        • June 17th 2018 @ 9:51am
          stu said | June 17th 2018 @ 9:51am | ! Report

          yes, france were terrible.

        • June 17th 2018 @ 1:11pm
          Lionheart said | June 17th 2018 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

          agree there Kangas, that foul on Juris was pivotal. Bert VM made a similar comment post game. The ref should have been much harsher on them.

    • June 17th 2018 @ 8:33am
      Kangas said | June 17th 2018 @ 8:33am | ! Report

      How come the French player didn’t get a red card for deliberately handball??

      • June 17th 2018 @ 10:11am
        AGO74 said | June 17th 2018 @ 10:11am | ! Report

        Only a red if it’s a handball to stop a goalbound shot which this wasn’t. It should have been a yellow though which I don’t even think that was given.

        • Roar Rookie

          June 17th 2018 @ 12:58pm
          Waz said | June 17th 2018 @ 12:58pm | ! Report

          It could have been a red – the Aussie player behind him would have had a clear chance if not for the deliberate hand ball. As it wasn’t a “football challenge” it really should have been a red by the letter of the law.

          • June 17th 2018 @ 1:02pm
            Swampy said | June 17th 2018 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

            Well that’s not true at all. The player behind was France centre back varrane who was very clearly going to head the ball. God knows what was going through umtiti’s head to stick his hand up. Was definitely a yellow card offence however.

            • June 17th 2018 @ 1:12pm
              Lionheart said | June 17th 2018 @ 1:12pm | ! Report

              Aloisi commented that he looked like he’d jumped, hands up but didn’t get the height.

            • June 17th 2018 @ 1:29pm
              AGO74 said | June 17th 2018 @ 1:29pm | ! Report

              Yes. Varane was next in line not Jedinak.

              • Roar Rookie

                June 17th 2018 @ 3:07pm
                Waz said | June 17th 2018 @ 3:07pm | ! Report

                Fair enough, my recollection was next in line was an Aussie player and I haven’t seen it back yet

                The hands in the air constitutive an unnatural position so the guy was walking a fine line all the same

      • June 17th 2018 @ 8:19pm
        jameswm said | June 17th 2018 @ 8:19pm | ! Report

        Nah it wasn’t a red.

    • June 17th 2018 @ 8:57am
      mwm said | June 17th 2018 @ 8:57am | ! Report

      I must of been watching a different game! Lol…. France were a level above Australia. We had no real answers in our final third. Craig Foster said something telling in that our only real shot on goal was the penalty. We were nervous and jittery and really were it not for the efforts of Ryan and Sainsbury it could of been a drubbing. Our players were no way near the class of France.

      • June 17th 2018 @ 9:12am
        MQ said | June 17th 2018 @ 9:12am | ! Report

        mwm
        of course you are right, and you are saying what Fozz wanted to say, but you can’t talk openly like that within 24 hours of such a game because of the overwhelming jingoism you come across on these sorts of sites: we was robbed, we were the better team, they’re cheats, etc. etc.

        We defended extremely well, we did a great job of frustrating the French, and we looked really dangerous at the set pieces all night long (more dangerous than the French), but if we are honest with ourselves, we did not create, did not try to create – that was not our game plan last night.

        By the way, the French were clearly classier, and clearly more creative, but they too had some poor moments where their passing was a bit shoddy and where they left enormous gaps for someone like Behich to advance quite far forward.

        I agree with you that both Ryan and Sainsbury were suberb, Mooy was also very good, and really, it was a great team effort to restrict the French in the manner that we did.

        Really, socceroo fans need to understand and accept that it was a fantastic result against a far superior opponent, a superb defensive effort, and desist from thinking that they were somehow the better side on the night overall.

      • June 17th 2018 @ 9:16am
        jamesb said | June 17th 2018 @ 9:16am | ! Report

        They were a level above Australia in the first ten minutes. After that the French didn’t really do much. On paper they are a class above, but they didn’t show any of that thanks to Australia’s compact defence.

        The fact that the French had to rely on a VAR penalty, and a deflected goal which just crossed the line, did show that Australia played really well and should get credit. France weren’t the better team, and a draw was the right result.

        My real concern for Australia is how are they are going manufacture chances?

        • June 17th 2018 @ 9:31am
          Kangas said | June 17th 2018 @ 9:31am | ! Report

          How is Australia going to manufacture chances ?

          Mooy looked very good, Australia will be far more expansive in attack against Denmark, with Mooy being pivotal.

          The question is now
          Luongo start for jedinak and
          Arzani for kruse ,
          possibility juric for Nabbout??

          • June 17th 2018 @ 10:14am
            AGO74 said | June 17th 2018 @ 10:14am | ! Report

            Arzani is still bench player for mine. Kruse played well last night and did nothing to suggest he should be replaced. It’s the defensive maturity which Kruse has over Arzani as to why he should be selected.

            As Guus hisdink said you generally only lose games in the first 30 or 45 minutes- you don’t win them. Put Arzani on with 30 -40 to go when he can (hopefully) cause havoc.

            • June 17th 2018 @ 12:37pm
              Drew said | June 17th 2018 @ 12:37pm | ! Report

              I like Kruse, but damn if he doesn’t look as feeble as a kitten out there. A strong gust of wind and he’ll be knocked over.

              • June 17th 2018 @ 1:08pm
                MQ said | June 17th 2018 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

                He wins stacks of free kicks in dangerous spots, and at the moment, set pieces are our only avenue to goal.

            • June 17th 2018 @ 4:30pm
              Adrian Kinslor said | June 17th 2018 @ 4:30pm | ! Report

              I agree that Kruse played well. He was probably the only Australian to take the French on in attack and trouble them. The French preferred to foul him and give Australia free kicks than let him run with the ball.
              Arzani for the last 25 minutes sounds right to me.

          • June 17th 2018 @ 10:50am
            jamesb said | June 17th 2018 @ 10:50am | ! Report

            I think at this stage Arzani is a bench player. He came on towards the end against France. But let’s remember, he is still a kid. I like to see him have a similar impact off the bench like he did against Hungary. Give him half an hour.

            Also the great news is that Iran can’t get him. He has now made a competitive debut. Looking forward to watching Arzani play in the green and gold for many years to come. He has a bright future.

    • June 17th 2018 @ 9:21am
      psg said | June 17th 2018 @ 9:21am | ! Report

      Australia and France played very unattractive football, to much back passing from Australia (that could have got us into trouble a few times) this game was there for the tacking for Australia if Cahill and Arzani would have been put on. The French were not doing much in attack. It was a very bad move by the coach and the French got away with the usual ‘prima donna’ acts that football is so well known for! Very ugly and disappointing game to watch and Australia should have had at least a draw.

    • June 17th 2018 @ 10:10am
      AGO74 said | June 17th 2018 @ 10:10am | ! Report

      There’s a lot of talk about how France were bad – and this was not one of their best performances. However they seemed to take an interesting approach which contributed to this. Going into the game I expected this to be a 70/30 match in terms of possession- in the end it ended up being reasonably even at 55/45. The French approach seemed to be to let Australia have the ball and come forward, disrupt the play and use the power, pace and skill of the French players. However this didn’t really work given how disciplined Australia was in its structure.

      For the first 15-20 minutes the ref reminded me of Markus merk giving the French the benefit of the doubt in every single instance – but much like the Aussies he seemed to settle into the game after that time and didn’t overly contribute to the game outcome in my opinion.

      The penalty wasn’t for mine due to a) Risdon getting a touch b) ball rolling away into Ryan’s arms -griezmann would never have got it. None of the French players complained for a penalty either.

      I’d suggest the refs “football smarts” told him all of that too in not awarding it, but once he is made to come over and look at the VAR screen he is almost compelled to blow for a penalty.

      If we were unlucky I’d suggest our next opponents Denmark got lucky last night – I just watched a 30 minute highlight video and Peru seemed comfortably the better team.

      For mine last nights set up, structure and performance were expected and we almost jagged a result. Unlucky. It’s now when we come back to somewhat of a more level playing field – this is where Bert will earn his keep. Yes we’ve got the structure and discipline but how do we combine that with an attacking threat especially when Denmark will likely line up in a similar way to us.

      Can some euro club please get Trent sainsbury out of his Chinese purgatory please. He’s too good for that league. Well done to Mark Milligan. Aaron mooy probably hasn’t played better for us I don’t think. Maty Ryan looked like a player supremely at ease with himself and gives so much confidence to the back 4 and team.

      Lastly I’d have been very happy if an Aussie had subtly managed to take the diving left back Hernandez out of the game – what a cheating git.

    • Roar Rookie

      June 17th 2018 @ 10:22am
      parkhacker said | June 17th 2018 @ 10:22am | ! Report

      Great effort from our players all played well above their usual peformances especially Matt Ryan ,Mathew Leckie and Aaron Mooy.Very unlucky to not get a draw I think Tim Cahill could have come on in final 15 minutes he may have jagged a goal.Every time we tackled Frenchies they took a dive especially when they were given penalty to score first goal.Anyhow we are still in the big dance with a bit of luck win our next 2 matches and all will be ok.

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