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Sooceroos Asian Cup Starts Now.

The Socceroos Asian Cup campaign starts now.

Tonights match in Osaka against regional rivals Japan will set the tone for what’s to come for Ange Postecoglou’s team as it prepares to host the biggest football tournament Australia has ever seen.

Make no mistake, tonight is no “friendly”.

Matches between The Socceroos and The Samurai Blue never are. Both teams know that if they are to win Asian Football’s biggest prize it is likely they will need to triumph over the other at a crucial point in the campaign.  

Oh no not you again... Tim Cahill set to break Japanese hearts again?

Oh no not you again... Tim Cahill set to break Japanese hearts again?

Australia and Japan both had a disappointing World Cup experience in Brazil. 

Neither side registered a win. Whilst The Socceroos showed daring and enterprise they were regularly shredded in defence, shipping 9 goals in 3 games. 

The Japanese campaign was equally underwhelming, culminating in a 4-1 drubbing in their final group game against a revitalised and exuberant Colombia. 

Since then it’s been something of a roller coaster ride for Japan. World Cup coach Alberto Zaccheroni paid the price for a poor campaign in Brazil and has been replaced by Mexican Javier Aguirre. 

Results continue to be patchy for The Samurai Blue. In October they were pummelled by Brazil 4-0 in Singapore but responded at home last week with a 6-0 romp against Honduras.

It started so well. Keisuke Honda's opening goal for Japan against Ivory Coast in Brazil. 

It started so well. Keisuke Honda's opening goal for Japan against Ivory Coast in Brazil. 

Just which Japan turns up tonight may decide the outcome of the contest.

For Ange Postecoglou the raw numbers for 2014 don’t make great reading.

10  games for  1 win, a scratchy 3-2 result against Saudi Arabia in London in September. In that time The Australians have also piled up 7 losses and 2 draws conceding 18 goals along the way.

Of the 10 goals scored by The Socceroos in 2014 Tim Cahill has provided 6 of them. The chronic dependance Australia has on its talismanic veteran for goal production is Ange Postecoglou’s greatest headache.

In fact, scoring at all, anyway, anyhow, is a major challenge right now. The Socceroos have scored in only 1 of their last 5 matches.  

If they’re to seriously challenge for honours in January that drought needs to end - and fast.

Future Shock. Postecoglou's Socceroos revolution is in full swing.

Future Shock. Postecoglou's Socceroos revolution is in full swing.

Postecoglou maintains 2014 has been year zero in his football revolution and with that has come the requisite pain. He has continued to turn over his squad in an attempt to unearth players he believes have the talent and temperament to cope with the pressures of international football.

The Socceroos coach has auditioned players like they were contestants on a game show as he attempts to settle on his best XI for The Asian Cup.

In the last 3 matches alone Postecoglou has used 26 players. It’s hardly a recipe for stability and recent poor results reflect that lack of continuity. 

The Socceroos coach makes no apology for this approach. His sights are firmly fixed on the long term renovation of a team he feels had been neglected. 

The Asian Cup is the one real opportunity Australian Football has of claiming serious silverware and it simply can’t be a pit stop on a road to some other destination.

Needs must for Ange Postecoglou and his Socceroos. Whether he can balance his long term mission with the pressing demands of the here and now will be the biggest challenge of his career. 

This Socceroos team is very much a work in progress, but time stands till for no man and no team.

And tonight, the time is now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ange Auditions his Asian Cup Cast.

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So you think you’re a Socceroo?

In case you missed it, episode 10 of Ange Postecoglou’s search for a football team was run last night at Craven Cottage in London.

  The Socceroos got away with a squeaky 3-2 win over a fast finishing Saudi Arabia. 

Heading in to the game Postecoglou was staring at an unprecedented 6th consecutive loss for the national team. No doubt the coach will be relieved he avoided that ignominious stat being stamped on his permanent record.

The win was anything but convincing. Then again, according to the coach, winning isn’t the main aim. Finding the right ensemble to take to the AFC Asian Cup which Australia is hosting in January is his mission.

To that end, Socceroos matches have looked more like auditions than football games as Postecoglou has given players an opportunity to press their claims.

Starting debuts for Swindon Town’s Massimo Luongo and Bailey Wright of Preston North End means Postecoglou has now given 29 different players a Socceroos start in the 10 games since he took the job as national coach.

Ange Postecoglou - searching for a different kind of Team Australia.

Ange Postecoglou - searching for a different kind of Team Australia.

 

This is a coach still in search of a football team, despite the perceived progress that was made at The World Cup in Brazil.

It’s little wonder then that the team has looked awkward and unsure of itself over the last week. On such shifting ground fluency is hard to find.

Scorched early by Belgium in Liege the Socceroos confused crude physicality for commitment and came off looking minor league.

Despite the early goals gifted to them by the Saudis in London, Postecoglou’s team were alarmingly shoddy in possession and distracted at the back. 

Punished for their defensive mistakes throughout The World Cup, that pattern continued against Belgium and Saudi Arabia. 

Jason Davidson fell into old habits in these games, giving away cheap possession deep in his own half and putting his rookie colleagues under enormous pressure.

Chris Herd has been given an opportunity in both games and has showed signs that he might challenge Ivan Franjic for the left back role. 

Scratchy at times, his lack of recent football is a concern. Whether he is likely to see much action in an Aston Villa shirt prior to The Asian Cup might determine whether he plays or not at home in January.

The vitality and tempo that characterised The Socceroos eye catching displays against Chile and The Netherlands has been absent in these games. No doubt after settling on his preferred line up Postecoglou will get to work restoring the high energy work ethic he requires.

In Massimo Luongo he may have the player who can assist the artful but ageing Mark Bresciano in providing the ingenuity and vision in midfield that will be required if The Socceroos are to claim it’s first serious piece of silverware in January.

Tommy Oar is making a name for himself at Utrecht but he seems lost out wide on the left at the moment. No doubt he’s holding out for a hero in the centre of the park who might free him up.

Upfront, Tim Cahill continues to produce though The Socceroos are sorely in need of another marksman to carry the load. There is a risk that placing that burden on Robbie Kruse, who is returning from a long term knee injury, is a gamble the coach will just have to take.

One question though - where is Josh Kennedy?

Back playing in the J-League at Nagoya Grampus he’s surely part of Postecoglou’s plans.

Socceroos fans know that Postecoglou is undertaking a major renovation of the national team. 

As their patience gives way to expectation ahead of The Asian Cup, the coach will know that when its showtime, he and his cast will need to deliver.

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