World Cup: Spain defeat Australia 3-0
Spain have outclassed Australia beating the Socceroos 3-0 in Curitiba. But the young and inexperienced Socceroos showed some flashes of brilliance.PT2M15S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-3apd7 620 349 June 24, 2014
It was a bridge too far for the Socceroos. Endeavour, application, motivation, they were all there. But quality? Conspicuous by its absence.
Australia never looked like winning, or even drawing, in Curitiba. Spain never looked like losing. They are still the world champions for another couple of weeks, and to go home without a point, without a win, would have been too much to bear. So Spain did what they had to, without ever shifting out of second gear.
Australia chased shadows for most of the afternoon on a slippery surface, where the weight of the pass, and the first touch, was always going to be decisive. Spain had the skill, the Socceroos didn't. Too many players in green and gold overplayed their hand. Mile Jedinak thought he was Andres Iniesta, but the real thing doesn't throw away possession so carelessly. Iniesta was at his imperious best, Jedinak was a pale imitation. And the skipper was by no means alone.
Australia never looked like beating Spain. Photo: AP
More than the games against Chile, and The Netherlands, this was a reminder of where the Socceroos are really at. In Cuiaba, and Porto Alegre, the team overachieved. In Curitiba, all those errors of judgement, some fractional, came home to roost.
This group of players will leave Brazil having done better than many expected, but the next level, where results against top quality opponents are realistic, looks beyond many of them. There is a reason the Spaniards play for Real Madrid, or Chelsea, or Bayern Munich. There's also a reason most of the Socceroos play in second-tier European competitions, or Asia, or the A-League. Some of Ange Postecoglou's bravehearts can still aspire to greater heights, but for others this World Cup, and these moments, will be the pinnacle of their careers.
At least for the first 10 minutes, the Socceroos looked the part. But once Iniesta got on the ball, it all started to go downhill. Poor Ryan McGowan was identified early on as a weak link. The good news is that A-League-bound David Villa did most of the tormenting, and to be fair to McGowan he got little defensive support from a fatigued Matthew Leckie. Spain smelt blood, and pushed Santi Cazorla across to overload McGowan. It was somewhat ironic, then, that the goal which set Spain on their way came from the opposite side, where Jason Davidson was exposed by the run inside from Juanfran, who crossed for Villa to score with a backheel finish.
World Cup 2014: Australia v Spain highlights
Australia's Oliver Bozanic jumps for the ball with Spain's Sergio Ramos (centre) and Raul Albiol (right) during their Group B match at the Baixada Arena in Curitiba. Photo: Reuters
From that moment on, there was only ever going to be one outcome, and in many ways the Socceroos did well to restrict Spain to three. The gulf in class expanded as the game wore on, but that's no shame for the Socceroos. The biggest pity is they couldn't give their magnificent supporters a goal to celebrate. Before the World Cup many wondered whether the Australian public had fallen out of love with the Socceroos. On the evidence provided in Cuiaba, Porto Alegre and Curitiba, the buzz is back.
Posetcoglou's target from the World Cup was to get those punters excited about the team again. Mission Accomplished. The next challenge is perhaps the hardest. Results.
Perception is a strange beast, and it's curious that four years ago, in South Africa, the team was largely maligned despite picking up four points and only missing out on the knockout stage on goal difference. In Brazil, the team finished pointless, but nobody is inclined to hang the players, or the coach, out to dry.
The reasons are well-documented, and the relief that the Socceroos didn't embarrass themselves remains palpable. Australia will leave the World Cup with the basis of a team to do well in the Asian Cup, but one not yet good enough to win it. When the time comes for reflection, Postecoglou will know he has to find better players if the Socceroos are to become champions of Asia. Thankfully he won't shy away from the challenge. He'll embrace it.