A spirited fight back by the Socceroos from 2-0 down to level at 2-2 was undone within a minute when they allowed Japan to score a third and vital goal at the East Asia Cup in South Korea last night.
This performance against a team that is fast becoming Australia’s number one rival was a much improved one from their opening game against South Korea which ended 0-0, but was still a long way from instilling supporters with hope that the next generation of talent has been discovered.
If this tournament is about giving new players opportunities then it will be interesting to see the team that coach Holger Osciek picks for Australia’s last game against China. South Korea, changed nine of their players from the opening game against Australia when they played China, and last night Japan changed all eleven, whereas Osciek stuck with the same team.
All of the sides at the East Asian Cup are without their European based players, and Japan Coach Alberto Zaccheroni stated prior to the tournament that he was not interested in seeing players who he knew could win the East Asia Cup but wanted to see those who might. That was reflected on the pitch last night with seven players making their international debuts for the Blue Samurai.
Despite this Japan continued to adopt a very different style of play to their traditional fast attacking play, and Australia still struggled to break down their defence, looking very pedestrian and predictable. The introduction of Mitch Nicholls and Tomi Juric had the desired effect and suddenly there was more movement and more attacking options.
Last night reserve ‘keeper Nathan Coe and Connor Pain were not available having flown back to Australia to play for Melbourne Victory against Liverpool, both players are believed to be heading back to South Korea for the final match; at whose expense many are wondering.
Why Coe is returning if Osciek sticks with Eugene Galekovic seems strange, and especially when he has a back up ‘keeper in Mark Birighitti. Pain’s return would hopefully mean he will make his debut against China. It would also be good to see Osciek blood the other young players he has picked in his squad, give them a chance to show what they can do in the green and gold of Australia. If he doesn’t one has to question why they made the trip. This is the ideal tournament in which to see what young players can do, as has been shown by Japan and South Korea.
One interesting aside from last night’s game was the fact that all five of the goals scored were the first goals for players representing their country, Tomi Juric and Mitchell Duke for Australia and Saito and two from Osako for Japan.