No one will argue the 4-0 scoreline didn’t flatter the Socceroos. Arguably it papered over the cracks of what was a disconnected and sloppy display against 146th-ranked Indonesia.
The opening goal was a fortunate own goal, the second came after Team Garuda bossed play for 15-20 minutes. The other two goals came very, very late.
But Australia booked its spot in the Asian Cup quarter-finals for the fifth straight tournament.
However, a tougher test awaits with either South Korea or Saudi Arabia next up, which is the reason for alarm. Graham Arnold’s side aren’t playing like a team that will trouble those sides, both whom are among the tournament favourites.
GGArmy’s Ben Somerford reflects on Sunday’s performance against Indonesia with a look forward.
Australia’s stereotypical traits serve us well against opposition like Indonesia. The physicality, the directness, the defensive resolve and the focused attitude were the keys to victory.
Indonesia enjoyed periods of possession and created good chances, but they lacked the quality to turn that into goals. On the flipside, the Socceroos made the most of their moments. It’s easy to take that for granted.
There really weren’t any stand-out performances from the men in green and gold. Keanu Baccus had his best game of the tournament, doing his best to keep things tidy-ish in midfield. Harry Souttar and Kye Rowles along with Mat Ryan were assured at the back.
One big positive was Craig Goodwin’s impact off the bench albeit against a tiring defence who had started to lose their discipline, entering the fray in the 87th minute. Goodwin scored two minutes after his introduction with a neat volley, before delivering an inch-perfect set piece for Harry Souttar to nod home. If Arnold needed a reminder on why Goodwin should be in his starting XI, that was it.
Nathaniel Atkinson also offered some bright moments off the bench, including getting down the right flank in behind the opposition defence. He was poor against Uzbekistan but may be needed to start next at right-back with Gethin Jones going off with an apparent injury issue.
Bruno Fornaroli had some good moments too and probably warrants holding his spot ahead of Kusini Yengi or the fit-again Mitch Duke, who got through half an hour after his hamstring concern.
Australia’s lack of creativity is a major worry moving forward. Sure, we managed four goals in the end, but in the main this was a performance lacking cohesion or connection. For periods in the first half, Australia couldn’t string together two passes in the front third.
There was no meaningful possession beyond passing it around the backline and occasionally threatening something incisive from midfield. The best option throughout this tournament has been spreading those moves wide. Both of Australia’s first-half goals came from low crosses from the right flank. Jordan Bos had a few moments down the left too.
But this is clearly a side struggling to find its way without Ajdin Hrustic and following the retirements of creative types like Aaron Mooy, Tom Rogic or Massimo Luongo (albeit he’s long been out of the frame). Riley McGree is the man charged with that responsibility but he was below his best on Sunday.
Arnold’s reluctance to utilize Marco Tilio for this purpose is frustrating, but he may be necessary against stronger opposition, who’ll handle wide play better.
Round of XVI, Starting XI
— Subway Socceroos (@Socceroos) January 28, 2024
It feels like the Socceroos have been in third gear all tournament, so let’s hope Arnold knows how to shift a few gears moving forward. For 15-20 minutes in the first half, prior to Australia’s second goal, Indonesia dominated possession and it came with intent. They were creating openings. I’d argue it was the Socceroos’ worst patch of this tournament to date.
Ultimately, Australia weathered the storm but against a vastly lower-ranked opponent it was startling that it took Arnold’s side so long to arrest control. That’s a big worry with South Korea or Saudi Arabia to come.
The stats will say Australia won possession 52-48 per cent with marginally more passes (436-426) and worse pass accuracy (80 to 81 per cent) which deserves further consideration. Arnold’s side spent a lot of time absorbing pressure without the ball. We were caught out and backtracking on numerous occasions. Better opposition sides capitalise on those periods.
Maybe Arnold is holding something back and conserving energy with bigger fish to fry. After all, he’s become accustomed to tournament play. But this malaise of performance has permeated the past three games, meaning most fans are worried Arnie cannot actually locate, let alone control, that gearstick.