While the quality of the opponents in Costa Rica wasn’t particularly high, the Socceroos rounded off what has been a positive first week under Ange Postecoglou with a performance that gives them a building base and a bit of belief.
While the manager was upbeat in his praise post-match, no doubt keen to build a positive air around a squad that doesn’t have a lot of time before Brazil, Ange Postecoglou also recognised there is still plenty to do.
But he says he is happy for the nation to get carried away with the effort at the SFS last night.
Little doubt he wants to build belief among the Socceroos and in the Socceroos.
He says we shouldn’t fear anyone.
It’s an interesting strategy, and a first up win and positive showing certainly provides at least some fuel for a nation to get behind the team.
While it wasn’t World Cup class by any means, certainly there looked a foundation that at least gives us a chance of being more competitive than we have been.
While Costa Rica came here with an experimental squad and what looked a negative back five, you can only control what’s in front of you, and the Roos deserve credit for doing that.
This was a performance a world away from some of the recent regressive showings that brought an end to the Holger Osieck years.
Here was a team playing on the front foot, stepping up to press the opponents across the pitch.
Defensive pressure was the foundation of this first-up effort, suffocating the Ticos, not allowing them to gain any control of the match, let alone a strike.
‘Control of the opposition’ and ‘control across all the thirds’ were buzz phrases under Guus Hiddink and while there might have been a little more control of the final third at times, certainly there were plenty of good signs across the pitch.
Primarily, it was the squeezing of the opponents as a unit that gave the Roos the space to start stringing their passes.
Coming from a team that looked afraid to play under Osieck, there were some good signs that this team will have a crack and try to play under Postecoglou.
Certainly he is encouraging them to, and you could see a few smiles return, not that the skipper Lucas Neill was smiling when heckled by some of the fans in the eastern terrace.
While it will take Postecoglou time to build the confidence in possession, one of the most pleasing aspects, as he said post-match, was that even if there was an error in distribution and a lost ball, the team would work hard, and collectively, to win it back quickly.
Setting the pressing tempo were the two midfield anchors, the imposing Mile Jedinak and and composed Mark Milligan, who protected their back five with distinction.
This was Jedinak’s best game in green and gold for what seems an eternity and he reminded many, including this correspondent, he’s not giving up his spot under Postecoglou without a fight.
After a very nervy start on the ball, he started to stroke it around with more confidence.
Milligan continued his recent high standards, and is still, to my mind, the man for the armband.
There were encouraging signs also from right fullback Ivan Franjic, striker Mat Leckie, right sided attacker Robbie Kruse and substitute number 10 Tom Rogic.
Overall, there was a real hunger and enthusiasm about this camp, and the challenge for Postecoglou is to bottle that desire and take it to Brazil and beyond.
There is little room for complacency, and Postecoglou would do well to maintain a healthy and objective distance from his players, keeping everyone on their toes, assessing them and others in detail.
For example, the nervy start among the new look back five might have been punished by a team more in tune with their strategy.
While we shouldn’t get too carried away with last night, as greater challenges lie ahead, you can understand Postecoglou’s want to create a snowball.
Unlike Osieck’s empty rhetoric, there was enough to suggest Postecoglou has turned the corner and started trending the Roos in the right direction.