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The dust has settled post the Socceroos’ 2-0 friendly defeat in Beijing to world champions Argentina. Whilst competing well, the Socceroos struggled to handle the quality and incisiveness of Lionel Messi and co. What can the Australia take away from the defeat?
Without the experience of Aaron Mooy and Jackson Irvine, Graham Arnold opted to start with Aiden O’Neill, Keanu Baccus and Riley McGree in. This midfield held their own against the likes of Argentina’s Enzo Fernandez and Rodrigo De Paul.
The Socceroos’ midfield held possession for large spells of the game, with McGree looking particularly comfortable on the ball. With Adjin Hrustic also joining the fray after the interval, it is evident that Arnie is developing a stronger mix of midfielders who are not just hard workers.
After a fantastic season with Melbourne City, Jordan Bos was rewarded with an A-League record-breaking transfer fee to Belgian Pro League club KVC Westerlo. Bos was also rewarded with a start at left back against Argentina, allowing him to lock horns with the experienced Angel Di Maria.
Whilst a little raw and eager, Bos looked comfortable in possession and was responsible for commencing several attacks against Argentina. At 20 years of age, Bos will only improve and gain maturity playing regularly in the Belgian Pro League.
Australia’s opportunities were limited in this match due to the lack of invention and quality in the front third. Arnold started with Jamie Maclaren and Mitch Duke up front. Whilst both players are industrious, they lack the quality required at international level to create legitimate chances to score.
Arnold will be hoping the likes of Garang Kuol and Nestory Irankunda develop over the coming years to provide more options in the front third.
Australia’s continued visibility and improvement has created the opportunity to regularly play against better quality opposition. The Socceroos’ last four matches have been against quality South American opposition (Argentina and Ecuador), whilst their next match in October is against heavyweights England in London.
These matches allow Arnold to stress test his players and tactics against high quality opposition, mimicking tournament conditions perfectly.
Arnold’s Socceroos personnel is changing rapidly. Against Argentina, only Mat Leckie (32), Mitch Duke (32) and goalkeeper Mat Ryan (31) were over 30. The national team boss is continuing to trust the likes of Kye Rowles and Harry Souttar (both 24) in defence, as well as Keanu Baccus (25) and Riley McGree (24) in midfield.
Against the world champions Arnold employed a 4-4-2 formation.
The positives? Less exposure to the counterattack and greater spells in possession.
The negatives? Fewer players moving forward and no room for wingers such as Craig Goodwin and Awer Mabil. By being able to play in both a 4-3-3 and 4-4-2, the Socceroos can play against different types of opponents based on whether they have greater spells in possession or not.
The Socceroos should be expecting to win the Asian Cup in January 2024. They may come up against the likes of Japan, Iran and South Korea, however, should take confidence from their strong showings against the likes of Argentina and Ecuador.