Socceroos show promise despite Croatia defeat
Croatia scored a lacklustre 1-0 win over a promising Socceroos in Salvador.PT1M22S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-39ppa 620 349 June 7, 2014
Socceroo boss Ange Postecoglou blamed a lack of composure from his team's forwards for their inability to force a draw against Croatia in the final World Cup warm up game in Salvador on Saturday.
Australia went down 1-0 in its last hit out, Hull City striker Nikica Jelavic scoring the winner just before the hour mark after a fortunate deflection fell into his path when he was in a marginally onside position. The big striker wasted no time in blasting home past Matthew Ryan.
The Socceroos had some half chances as they stepped up a gear in search of a leveller, but didn't really force Croatia goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa to make a save. Nonetheless there was plenty to like about their defensive display, especially in the first half.
Beating his man: Ben Halloran evades a tackle in the 2-1 loss to Croatia. Photo: Getty Images
Postecoglou said that if the frontmen had kept their cool when those slim opportunities arose the scoreline might have been different.
The Socceroos, playing a disciplined, structured game, had kept their well fancied European opponents goalless in the first half and had looked quite comfortable in the opening 45 minutes, although their rivals lifted a gear in the second period.
''It was OK, it was solid. I thought our general play was pretty good particularly in the first half, in patches in the second. I thought defensively we looked good, nice and strong, but probably in the final third we lacked a bit of composure, a cutting edge, '' was Postecoglou's post match summation of the game.
''We got into some decent areas but never really threatened. That was probably the one area we let ourselves down a little bit, but overall we worked hard ... against a quality opponent. From our perspective progress was made.
''Against a very good opponent for the most part in the first half we played the game in their half which was a good sign for us. It was our intent to try to play in their half as much as possible - that's the kind of team we want to be, and I thought we controlled that pretty well.
''At times we probably just played a little bit too safe and probably should have taken a little bit more of a risk.''
Mark Bresciano, the team's most creative influence, has been troubled by a back injury and had not trained fully in the lead up to this match. But when he came on with half an hour to go he certainly added a spark in the attacking zone that had not been there before.
''I thought Bresh helped a little bit - we got into some pockets on the edge of the box and looked threatening... but I never really felt in that final third we were causing the problems we could have.
''Hopefully after another week's worth of training he will be available. Its not just the first game (that Australia needs him for). Its important every game we have some options that are nice and strong. It was pleasing for him to get 30 minutes, it was pleasing for Mile (captain Mile Jedinak) to get just over an hour under his belt after being out for a while.
''And Matty Spiranovic (centre back who missed the match against South Africa) as well was a good hit-out.''
For Postecoglou the next seven days, before the team faces Chile in its World Cup opener, are critical. He will work relentlessly on shape and structure and hope the forwards discover their sharpness so they can take any opportunities that might come their way.
''We will just keep working on the game plan with a real focus now to Chile, analysing them to a great extent, making sure we can diminish their strengths and expose some of their weakness... it's all about that first game now.
''With the game under their belts today a few of those players in those areas (forwards) will make better decisions.
''We are still presenting players with unique challenges... I think they are growing every game. Look at the likes of Ivan Franjic and Jason Davidson - every game they are getting stronger and stronger, and Matthew Leckie and Tommy Oar. Benny Halloran was right when he came on. The more they play the more they will get that composure,'' the coach said.
''It was a good game played at a good tempo, good intensity. I don't think there was anything untoward in there, if they expect us not to touch them they probably went in there with the wrong idea.,'' he added.
Postecoglou was happy with his defence, especially the way the inexperienced centre-back pairing of Alex Wilkinson and Matthew Spiranovic performed.
''I thought Matty (goalkeeper Mat Ryan) had a couple of saves to make and Spiro and Alex Wilkinson handled their big strikers quite well - they didn't get in behind us too many times. ''They had a few shots in front of us, but there's no doubt that the one chance they got they buried it. We had a couple of half chances but lacked that composure to punish them.
''There's still a week to go, a week's work to go. I see improvement in these players every day. They are growing in confidence. I don't think their belief will be diminished even though we lost today... that belief is still there.
''We have a few options, all the players are now in a position to train fully and are up for selection. We have been working really hard in a short space of time to get them ready to play world class opposition.
''We need to improve there's no doubt about that, and we have seven days to do that.''