Socceroos match it with Chile in Moscow
FOR Ange Postecoglou there was regret to go with the pride. A sense of what might have been.
The Socceroos manager saw a "missed opportunity” in Russia after his young side put in a rousing performance against Chile in their final group game at the Confederations Cup, but ultimately failed to secure the victory needed to reach the semi-finals.
After defeat to Germany and a draw with Cameroon, Australia were behind the eight ball in Moscow, needing to win by two clear goals to leapfrog the South American Champions in the final standings.
Few gave them a chance. But they looked for long periods like pulling it off. And arguably worth more than a solitary point for their efforts.
"I thought we were the better side and deserved to get something out of it,” said Postecoglou.
"I don't see it as progression, I see it as what we're expecting at the moment and we measure ourselves against the very best and we're not quite there yet at the moment.
"We'll keep pushing forward and making sure we keep developing.
"We needed to face up to them tonight. It's what we want to be as a team. We've tried to be like that against every team we've played.
"That was the most important thing for us. We obviously wanted to win the game and win by two goals but more importantly we wanted to be the team that was dominating the game.”
Biting in to tackles and showing bravery and composure on the ball, Australia did just that for large spells, after Postecoglou shuffled his pack in terms of selection.
Six changes from the Cameroon game and a couple of positional tweaks paid dividends.
Australia for large spells out fought and out played a Chile side renowned for their work ethic as much as they are incisive passing and goal threat.
"The most important thing for us was not to let Chile dominate the game. When you allow them to dominate the game its almost impossible to beat them,” said Postecoglou.
"We needed to be at our best today and we were going to need energy for that and that's why we made the changes. Credit to the guys who came in. They certainly brought that and more.”
There were stand out performances across the park, few more so than in the fresh defensive midfield partnership of Massimo Luongo and Jackson Irvine, who set the tone from the off, refusing to be cowed by more celebrated opponents.
"It was going to be intense from the start, we know how tenacious and aggressive Chile are and the way they like to play,” said Irvine. "First an foremost you have to match that.
"Right from the offset we made our intent very clear, how we were going to approach the game. We got a lot of rewards from our pressure.”
The tournament in Russia was a testing ground for a young squad with ambitions in far reaching development. Chile's key men play regularly in Europe's tops divisions and in the Champions League. But on a clement night in Moscow, Australia's players did not look out of place in such company.
"There are guys out there [in the Socceroos team] that should be playing for top clubs,” said Postecoglou.
"Hopefully by us consistently measuring ourselves against the best, we get that opportunity because it needs to happen. There's no doubt the final step for us is we need our players playing at the highest possible level.
"If you're talking about a difference between us and the opposition at this tournament, that's to me the biggest difference. Where they play their club football compared with our players.
"We're not far away from being a good team but to get to where we want to, we need some of our boys to get an opportunity to play at the highest level consistently. That will prepare them better for top level football.”