Australia stunned the Dutch with their energetic start putting in the clichéd “heroic” performance. With expectation so low any semblance of direction would be seen as a positive. However, in the end the Netherlands prevailed by a 3-2 scoreline.
The high press and gung-ho approach by Ange Postecoglou left a lot of admirers of his new look side. “Everyone’s second team” as some may say. A dynamism and pace filtered through the side with like of Matt McKay and Mark Bresciano adding the necessary guile.
The precursor to such a performance was the second half against Chile. The performance was spirited and placed hope into the formerly discontented fan. After the debacle of World Cup’s past in Durban losing 4-0 to Germany and recent 6-0 thrashings in friendlies against France and Brazil, negativity was ripe.
Pim Verbeek, former Socceroos’ boss, said prior to the game: “I don’t see any possibility that Australia will score a goal against the Netherlands.”
The same lack of faith he showed throughout his tenure with young players and the domestic league. A similar lack of faith Holger Osieck had for the younger generation with a reluctance to regenerate an ageing side.
When appointed Postecoglou spoke at length about resorting pride and exciting football to the Australian national team. Years of Verbeek and Osieck convinced Australian fans that defending deep and sitting back was the only way to play against top-level opposition.
But Postecoglou’s thrown that out of the window, he’s shown a belief in the playing staff despite a litany of injuries during his short tenure. Most recently to duo Ivan Franjic and Mark Milligan, the former not playing any further part in the tournament.
It would mean a starting berth at right-back for Ryan McGowan, a position he had not played with regularity since his time with Scottish club Hearts. And Postecoglou’s former charge during his time at Brisbane Roar Matt McKay received a call-up into the midfield.
Australia despite the changes in personnel setup in similar fashion to the last game against Chile, while The Netherlands stuck to a winning formula with Louis van Gaal’s 5-3-2.
The 5-3-2 didn’t work as well against Australia. The Dutch afforded the defense time to play out and for McKay to drop into pick up the ball from defense. The wide play from the fullbacks and wingers pushed back the likes of Daryl Janmaat and Daley Blind, not enjoying as much space in wide areas as against Spain.
The Australian dominance in the first half, however, saw Holland capitalize on the counter after threatening a few times from interceptions in midfield. Arjen Robben’s first goal was an example of that.
But nobody could legislate for what happened less than minutes later. Tim Cahill, scoring his fifth World Cup goal, in dramatic fashion, found an equalizer. McGowan put through Cahill with a ball over his shoulder which he volleyed into the net arguably one of the goals of the tournament thus far.
But after an unfortunate injury to young centre-back Bruno Martins Indi Van Gaal made a tactical switch. PSV’s young winger Memphis Depay came on as the Dutch changed their formation to a more orthodox 4-3-3.
The second half change saw Holland gain majority of possession and dominant, but Socceroos’ utilized the counter-attack and transitions with Mathew Leckie’s pace and power a major asset, especially with Tommy Oar’s lackluster performance.
Substitute Oliver Bozanic added dynamism into the midfield when he was called onto the pitch, playing huge role in the awarding of the penalty to Australia.
And the moment Jedinak’s penalty was dispatched the disbelief and excitement of Socceroos’ fans Porte Alegre erupted.
The lead was short lived when mis-communication with Jason Davidson and his backline to play the offside trap put Robin van Persie through to score the equalizer.
Search for the winner began and if not for Oar’s poor delivery to Leckie the Socceroos’ may have found that all important goal. And in the cruel game that is football moments later, Depay unleashed his shot from distance putting the Dutch in front.
The remainder of the game the Socceroos’ threw everything at the Dutch, although nothing ended up sticking Australia’s reputation markedly increased.
The predicted whipping boys of Group B stunned the world. Yes victory was lost, and the result was 3-2 to Holland. But the seeds have been sewed, as this young group begin to learn to play with each other.
No doubt positive momentum is being built under Postecoglou, and its invaluable going forward to the Asian Cup on home soil.