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Tougher opposition raises tactical questions

The Republic of Korea’s defence on Saturday night displayed a discipline and concentration that the winners of the 2015 Asian Cup will need to possess.


Another clear moment of confusion and chaos in defence will unfortunately define this match for the Socceroos. The squad will hopefully learn a few lessons as they reflect on a performance that wasn’t poor but did lack polish and poise in front of goal.


From the outset it did appear that the Republic of Korea were happy to sit and counter.


It didn’t take long for the Australians to identify this tactic in the early exchanges and once the dust had settled, fluidity and speed of ball movement appeared to be the required approach.


Postecoglou’s exclamations from the sideline encouraging this strategy were audible and consistent.


The first twenty five minutes were lacklustre and both sides seemed tentative in their endeavours.


The Korea Republic seemed to enjoy this period as the free flowing nature of the football the Socceroos had played in earlier games appeared to have been somewhat stifled.


The goal that followed was nothing more than an error and a result of poor communication between defenders.


The frequency of this must still cause concern for the coach as he tries to assemble a defence that remains focused and diligent throughout the full ninety minutes.


Korea Republic seemed to take control in the latter stages of the first forty five, barring the free kick awarded on the edge of the box.


The effort of James Troisi was symptomatic of a player seemingly low on confidence and a little out of step with the overall structures being employed by Postecoglou.


Indeed the front three seemed a little out of sync as they grappled with a sturdy Korean defence.


This would have been expected to some degree as the ‘usual suspects’ sat on the sideline in an obvious effort to preserve legs for the battles to come.


Despite the obvious shift towards youth that Postecoglou has adopted, there still lies a common sense policy towards freshness and revitalisation that is required in any major international tournament.


Matt McKay and Massimo Luongo were considerably less effective in terms of their distribution forward yet the Korean defence made their efforts far more problematic than in the previous matches against lesser opponents.


The front three therefore suffered and Nathan Burns and Tommy Juric found themselves starved of quality possession for extended periods.


After half time, an air of expectation seemed to promulgate from the almost capacity crowd in Brisbane. Despite some injury delays early in the second half the football began to flow more fluently as the Socceroos pursued an equaliser.


No doubt the unrivalled success Postecoglou has had in Queensland added to the atmosphere and expectation.


The chances that unravelled were at times clear, see Tomi Juric and Robbie Kruse, and at other times more distant and remote, such as the headers late in the game by Cahill that posed no serious threat to the Republic of Korea goal.


I fear the issue of composure and poise in front of goal, put behind us by some after the eight goals produced in the earlier performances against Oman and Kuwait, may reappear after a performance that did produce a number of quality opportunities.


There are days when goals seem to come easily and others where the back of the net appears to be as distant as the proverbial pot of gold lurking somewhere near a rather ill-defined rainbow.


For a team hell-bent on rebuilding and developing a style based on speed and fluency, using fresh, young and enthusiastic legs, a lack of goals should not be the major concern.


However, the vibrancy of youth and willingness to commit to team structures and planning is no substitute for class and the lack of a Mark Viduka-like forward is clearly evident.


Moreover, a focal point such as Josh Kennedy or the youthful genius of Tommy Rogic cannot be matched by mere enthusiasm and work ethic.


As the match drew to its conclusion numerous chances came the way of the Socceroos. The painfully obvious miss of Kruse will no doubt be played out in the media in a mercenary fashion and needs no analysis here.


My buttocks remained clenched throughout the final twenty minutes as the Socceroos searched for the equaliser and I must admit to exclaiming a few frustrated and nasty words at the end of the contest.


The kids had long been put to bed for the PC-minded people out there.


I was left with a feeling of disappointment mixed with a sense of positivity for the clash with China next week. It was one of those contests where there really was no absolute winner and no clear loser.


There were lessons to be learned by both sides and it was befitting of a contest between two proud nations, both with a chance to claim the ultimate prize in this tournament.


The potential clash with Japan seemed to be the motivation behind both teams as they entered this confrontation.


Perhaps the Republic of Korea handled it better, or perhaps Australia’s domination of possession gives them a points victory in the long term.


However we look at the result something more than a zero in the goals column for the Socceroos would have looked a lot better.

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