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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 11 June 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 11 JUNE 2016 25 SPORT PHOTO: AAP/JULIAN SMITH. Greek ambush stuns Socceroos Postecoglou disappointed with Socceroos’ reaction GEORGE STOGIANNOU How are we to view the Socceroos’ series of three recent friendly matches as preparation for the real business of the final round of World Cup qualifiers beginning in September? Is it a case (as Meatloaf sings) that two out of three ain't bad, or does the last match against Greece at Etihad cast a slight shadow over the praiseworthy performances of the first two matches against England and Greece in Sydney. Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou has been railing against the doubters, repeatedly affirming his team's self-belief and its aim to perform well and even beat the best in the world. And he had a good performance against England to vouch for even if that result didn't go its way. After the Socceroos match against England, the coach looked forward to an even more high-energy attacking performance back home in Australia against the Greeks, especially with the return of additional options up front from the Asian Leagues. For the Melbourne game, his selection choices in attack included an experienced front three, spearheaded by skipper for the night Tim Cahill, flanked by Bundesliga players Leckie and Kruse. In addition, a smooth Etihad playing surface promised a high-tempo passing game from the Socceroos. But it didn't go according to plan. The Greeks, with a few days more rest under their belt, ambushed the Socceroos with two early goals, the first when impressive Benfica midfielder Andreas Samaris stole the ball from Mark Milligan to set up a quick counterattack, playing in AEK midfielder Petros Mantalos who had time to pick his spot and score in the eighth minute. Just ten minutes later came the type of goal seen more often on Youtube than in real life, when another Greek midfielder, Ioannis Maniatis, spotted Socceroo keeper Adam Federici off his line and launched a long-range effort from inside his own half, which sailed into the net to double the lead. Needless to say, Maniatis was swamped by his celebrating teammates. The home fans fell silent as a minute later they watched Greece squander another excellent chance to score when Jose Cholebos lobbed the keeper with just Federici to beat, only for the ball to go over the crossbar. The Socceroos appeared rattled. And when they tried to react, the Greeks countered by disrupting the Socceroos' passing game and preventing any fluency. As the Socceroos tried to push forward, the game became increasingly physical, with a mounting foul count disrupting the Socceroos' attempts to find a rhythm. Samaris marshalled the midfield effectively, and while Mooy started to see more of the ball, Tommy Rogic was quiet, although he wasn't alone. Leckie was hardly sighted while Cahill had scraps to feed on. In the second half, the Socceroos were again met with the same stern resistance from the Greeks, with their best chances coming from set pieces. Centre back Trent Sainsbury volleyed over from close range after a corner. Greece threatened to add to its tally when skipper Vassilios Torosidis hit the upright with a volley, just before Sainsbury pulled one back with a header for the Socceroos when he was quickest to react to a Milligan header which rebound off the cross bar, following a corner. With half an hour remaining and despite an injection of fresh legs off the bench, the Socceroos were unable to trouble the Greek defence with any further clear chances. So what went wrong for the Socceroos on Tuesday night? Their game plan, which had worked well for them in previous matches, didn't come to fruition. Coach Postecoglou was in a downbeat mood at his post-match press conference. "From our perspective, we really didn't deal well tonight with a poor start against a quality opponent. I thought they worked really hard and didn't allow us to get any rhythm in the game. They handled the whole scenario a lot better than we did. We haven't been in that situation too often, so from our perspective, the players would have learnt from that. "They set out really well defen- sively and they set out to frustrate and they achieved that tonight. We didn't handle that aspect of the game well at all. As much as we talk about the tactical side of it, the way we set up, we still need to maintain our composure out there if things aren't going our way. Which will happen sometimes − that's football. So we need to react better next time to those sort of circumstances," he said. "Sometimes it will happen if you're playing quality opponents, they'll get a jump on you because that's the way football works. It's about the reaction today. From my perspective, that was the most disappointing thing tonight. We just went away from what we're good at and tried to match them in what they're good at − and they're better at it than us. We just need more discipline to play our football even in adverse situations when the opposition gets a jump on you. We need to have more composure in the way we deal with things. But as I said, it's the first time we've sort of been dealt those cards for a while. For a lot of the guys it's the first time they've been in that situation." The loss to Greece was a game that the Socceroos were unable to control the way their coach wants them to. Worryingly, there were few chances created. And this was the case even in the first game against England, when despite having more control and possession, there was still a dearth of chances created up front. There's no doubt the Socceroos have come a long way in the 30 or so matches under coach Postecoglou, but the Etihad match against Greece appears to have been a late wake-up call before the World Cup qualifiers begin in September.
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