The Socceroos were left irritated after going down 1-0 down to a well structured South Korea in Brisbane tonight.
Coach Ange Postecoglou stuck to his guns, keeping his promise to rotate the squad, leaving stars Tim Cahill and Robbie Kruse on the bench- it came back to bite him. Despite the nations “trustinAnge” mentality, questions will surely be raised over his starting XI lineup after the squad failed to break down a resilient South Korean defence.
There was high anticipation for the final group match, resulting in a sell out at Suncorop Stadium in Brisbane. The crowd and atmosphere was immaculate, as fans rolled into the bars on Caxton Street well before kick-off. It’s a shame the same can’t be said for the poor state of the turf….
Australia were full of life in the first half dominating possession, although unable to conjure up a real scoring opportunity.
The Koreans were finding themselves forced into their own back half, as young marvel Massimo Luongo caused problems for the Korean defence.
Australia’s physicality had become evident early on. You could have mistaken the game for a rugby match after Nathan Burns spectacularly shoulder charged Park Joo Ho into the ground.
Korean captain Ki Sung Yueng was proving to be a class above the rest in the midfield. The central midfielder playing for English Premier League side Swansea City made a mockery of Australia’s defence throughout the game. Yueng slotted a ball between Ivan Franjic and Luongo leaving a clear path for Lee Jeong to strike home a goal in the 31’st minute.
It was apparent that the Koreans were taking advantage of a weak spot on the right hand side in the Socceroos defence. Franjic was finding space running forward, although defensively you can argue whether he had no support or if he was struggling to get back in time to mark properly.
The Socceroos were left frustrated in the second half as the refereeing decisions continued to go against them. The Koreans were outsmarting the Socceroos, irrespective of whether the Koreans players were going down “too easy”.
Matthew Leckie is another player who has proved his worth over the last two games. The moment Leckie came on for a poor Troisi in the 59th minute is the moment that the momentum of the game shifted.
Leckie’s immediate impact resulted in far more attacking runs being made into the box.
Not long after, coach Postecoglou was forced to bring on his big guns in Robbie Kruse and Tim Cahill. But it was too little too late for the Socceroos, who were unable to convert any of their chances.
Credit must be given to Korea’s centre backs Kwak Taehwi and Kim Young Gwon, who have made their defence look as strong as the Trojan Wall in this Asian Cup. Tonight’s victory marks Korea’s third clean sheet in a row, leaving them as a tough opponent for whoever may face them in the quarter finals.
The concerning points in tonight’s game was the state of the pitch. This is the Asian Cup meaning that every ground should be immaculate before games. If international teams are scheduled to play in these stadiums, it means they should be in immaculate condition no matter how many games have been played on them during the week.
“Yeah look obviously we would like the pitch to improve, it doesn’t bring the best out of football that you know all teams are trying to play, and us especially” – Tomi Juric
Ange’s decision making also needs to be heavily analysed and critiqued. With great privilege comes great responsibility, meaning Ange and his coaching team must be prepared to receive criticism. The Socceroos wanted to be ruthless in this Asian Cup, although resting or rotating fringe players is the complete polar opposite. There has also been no sign of Tommy Oar, a player who has taken his game to the next level at FC Utrecht in the Dutch Eredivisie, and on the verge of a transfer to a bigger club. Postecoglou continues to sit Oar on the bench, instead of giving him the opportunity he deserves. Tonight’s game was a must win, if the loss jeopardizes our odds of winning the Asian Cup at home, Ange may live to regret leaving out his key stars.
The big question for the Socceroos, is whether they can reset and take the positives out of tonight. The Aussies dominated possession 67.2% to Koreas 32.8% and doubled their shots on goal 6 to 3.
The Socceroos and Suncorp stadium both have four days to get it right. No excuses….
Follow our team at THE TURF as we travel around Australia to cover the Socceroos.
Stay tuned as we tune in for Japan v Jordan in Melbourne tomorrow night.
Words by Ari Charilaou
Photography by Aleksandar Jason.