Duel ... Robert Cornthwaite and Gheorghe Grozav. Photo: Getty Images
VETERAN Mark Schwarzer believes the Socceroos are in a good place heading into the business end of World Cup qualifying despite a disappointing defeat by Romania.
Australia let a second-half lead slip as Romania scored twice inside the last 10 minutes to prevail 3-2 in the friendly match in Malaga, Spain.
Socceroos coach Holger Osieck gave his squad a workout with six changes in the second half and the German coach felt mixing things up so much may have cost his side victory.
But he and Schwarzer felt there were several positives to take from the hit-out into next month's crucial qualifier against Oman in Sydney, where Australia badly need a win to boost their Brazil 2014 qualification hopes.
''It was a disappointing result and the way the game played out, particularly in the second half, was a little bit disappointing,'' goalkeeper Schwarzer said. ''But you've got to take the goods out of it and there were a lot of lessons learned. I think there were some individual performances that were pretty decent and that's going to put us in good stead against Oman.''
Among those to impress was the dangerous Robbie Kruse, who carried his good form over from the Bundesliga with a lively attacking display, while Brett Holman worked hard without reward despite little playing time with Aston Villa recently. Osieck singled out James Holland for praise after he was handed a starting role in defensive midfield, indicating he was a likely starter against Oman.
And Robert Cornthwaite boosted his hopes of replacing the suspended Lucas Neill next month, as he gave Australia the lead in the 54th minute with his third goal in just six internationals.
K-League defender Cornthwaite started alongside Neill at centre back and continues to make the most of his opportunities after a last-minute call-up against South Korea in November, when he netted the winner. ''He's doing himself a lot of good by coming in and scoring and doing a good job,'' Schwarzer said of Cornthwaite.
Cornthwaite's strike from Matt McKay's corner had Australia on course for a come-from-behind win. But the Socceroos could not convert a handful of chances to go two goals up and Romania made them pay with late goals to Bogdan Stancu and Gabriel Torje. Adam Federici replaced Schwarzer just after half-time, while Ryan McGowan, Rhys Williams, Nikita Rukavytsya, Mathew Leckie and Mark Milligan all saw game time in the second half. ''When there is a couple of changes, there is always a change in the game,'' Osieck said.
''… But we showed great commitment and I think it was a very positive performance from my point of view.''
Romania coach Victor Piturca restored most of his key players after they sat out Saturday's 4-1 friendly loss to Poland and the European side was well on top early.
The Socceroos looked to be getting on level terms before they fell behind in the 36th minute, Schwarzer failing to keep hold of Torje's shot and Christian Tanase firing in from the rebound. Australia pulled level on the stroke of half-time through a Luke Wilkshire penalty, after Alex Brosque had been played into the box by Holland and knocked over.
It was the Socceroos' first defeat in seven matches and Schwarzer considered it a good effort in cold and windy conditions after just two training sessions.