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The Socceroos leave Australian shores with a A 1-0 win over New Zealand Graham Arnold’s troops continue to prepare for the World Cup in November.

However, even the presence of legendary Socceroos manager Guus Hiddink was not enough to inspire the Australians in what was a relatively lackluster performance against their rivals across the Tasman.

Awer Mabil’s goal was the difference, but it was the only bright light in an otherwise lackluster attacking display from the Aussies.

There are also terrible performances from much of the backline, with three players doing little to improve their chances of starting the Socceroos’ first group game against France.

Equally worrying was the lack of bite and ruthlessness up front, with no forwards staking their claim to lead the way, while a missed star chance perfectly summed up the attack’s woes.

Foxsports.com.au breaks the biggest Socceroos talking points from New Zealand’s first friendly.

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Harry Soutar, arguably Australia’s best centre-back, is racing against time in a bid to be ready for the World Cup as he continues his rehabilitation after tearing his ACL last November.

Bailey Wright and Kai Rowles were central defenders in the Socceroos’ crucial World Cup play-off matches against the UAE and Peru.

With Rawles also injured this window, it meant another centre-back could join the starting line-up.

Arnold opted to bring Trent Sainsbury and Milos Degenek into the center of defense, with the duo flanked by Fran Karacic on the right and Aziz Behic on the left.

However, neither exactly capitalized on their decisive chance, and if anything, Karacic and Sainsbury seriously damaged their chances of starting in Qatar.

From the outset, Sainsbury gifted the Kiwis with a great chance that should have seen the Socceroos lose 1-0 and had several other moments that left fans with their hearts in their mouths.

Sainsbury didn’t have his best game in Socceroos colours. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Karacic struggled to contain New Zealand left-back Liberato Kakace as the Socceroos man also failed to offer much, if anything, going forward.

Degenek wasn’t completely wrong, but he wasn’t flawless either, as he failed to clear a crucial header in the 9th minute that allowed Chris Wood to slide the ball into the path of Andre de Jong, who should have scored.

Joel King, Behich’s main rival, didn’t get enough time to make an impact.

​While Behić was good going forward, he didn’t have enough of an end product and had worrying lapses in defence.

Nathaniel Atkinson came on midway through the second half, replacing Karacic, and immediately looked better.

The Hearts defender also made an important block in the closing minutes of the game to prevent New Zealand from simply pressing.

Without Suttar and Rawles, the heart of the Socceroos defense could be the weakest point and this friendly has given Arnold plenty of food for thought.

Karacic tried his best to restrain Kakace. (Photo by Alberto Perez/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images


Although Graeme Arnold called up seven unannounced players in an extended 31-man squad, he opted to name a conservative starting line-up, preferring players who featured in the qualifying campaign.

But fans were certainly hoping to witness the likes of Garang Kuol, the 18-year-old striker who set tongues wagging with his impressive effort in the A-League All-Star Game against Barcelona.

Much talked about in the run-up to the match, he gave a magical press conference after his first call-up. He was joined at this press conference by Central Coast Mariners teammate Jason Cummings, a fan favorite for his impressive achievements on the field as well as his flamboyant personality off the park. Unfortunately, neither got the chance to take the field at Suncorp Stadium – a disappointing result for the more than 25,000 fans who saw off the Australian side.

Arnold has promised to field an almost entirely new starting line-up for Sunday’s rematch, with plenty of opportunities for debutants. But the decision not to allow new faces in this matchup denied Arnold the chance to find out who would fit well with the existing core group.

However, the final international before the World Cup gives the debutants a small window to earn a ticket to Qatar.

The Socceroos coach at the 2006 World Cup, Guus Hiddink, told Channel 10: “It’s always good to have a mix of experienced players and not be afraid to bring in young players. If you put in the right mix, it’s good for football development as well. But, of course, it is necessary to perform at the World Cup. I hope that the squad becomes even more experienced, I had a team with a lot of experience. It’s a young team, not very experienced, but yes, let them go on this adventure.”

Garang Kuol has not seen game time in Brisbane. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images


It was a frustrating night for both Australian forwards – first Adam Taggart, then substitute Jamie McLaren. They were isolated at the top of the attack and lacked opportunities, while they worked tirelessly in defence, but often chased the ball individually, with the Australian defensive press lacking cohesion. Taggart touched the ball just 15 times in 61 minutes on the field – by far the lowest of any starter – and was clearly frustrated by the poor service from his teammates. McLaren fired a snap shot from outside the box with his first real chance, desperate to make an impact on the game.

The nine position has proved to be one of the major selection conundrums for Graeme Arnold in recent years – or to be honest, since Tim Cahill retired. Despite Arnold’s preference for attacking football, the Socceroos have long struggled to regularly bring strikers into the game.

The 29-year-old Taggart’s club form is arguably the best of any Australian striker – five goals in his last 12 games in Japan’s top division – and he looks like first choice for the position in Qatar. McLaren’s A-League season doesn’t start for another few weeks, giving him very little time to get up to full speed ahead of the World Cup.

Taggart didn’t have many scoring chances. (Photo by Patrick HAMILTON/AFP)Source: AFP

It’s the same with Jason Cummings and Garang Kuol, the Central Coast Mariners’ uncapped duo, who are crossing their fingers for a chance to play – and score – in New Zealand on Sunday. Japan-based Mitch Duke is a physical and hard-working forward who offers Arnold a different style of forward that will likely earn him a spot on the plane to Qatar.

But the stats reflect the scale of the problem, with Taggart having six goals in 17 Socceroos matches, McLaren eight in 26 and Duke seven in 20. Their records hardly inspire confidence – especially when the odds are higher against top teams like France at the World Cup.

The Socceroos have proven in recent years that they can be deadly in transition, with many of their goals during their World Cup qualifying campaign coming from counter-attacks. That was the case with Aver Mobil’s strike on Thursday night, while Matt Leckie hit the post late in the match after another counter-attack.

Getting to the World Championship was one thing. But the Socceroos won’t win matches in Qatar without scoring – and Arnold must finally find a solution for his isolated, invisible strikers.

Leki hit the bar when it was probably easier to score. (Photo by Patrick HAMILTON/AFP)Source: AFP


The Socceroos’ midfield trio of Aaron Mooy, Jackson Irvine and Ajdin Hrustic struggled to find any rhythm against New Zealand.

On paper, it’s an unbalanced trio: Mooy isn’t the tough CDM the Socceroos need, Irwin’s key traits lie in his ability to get forward in the final third, and Hrustic can’t afford to be shackled by defensive duties when he’s a key attacking threat.

The game played out exactly as many predicted.

Mooy was often getting past the Kiwis with ease and had to make sloppy fouls or sliding calls to break up play, Irwin completed just 65 percent of his passes and Hrustik just couldn’t get into the key positions where he does all the damage.

The game was disjointed with the Socceroos needing to push the ball up the pitch, which led to some long balls and switches being sprayed around.

It also left the Australians alarmingly open to a quick New Zealand counter-attack whenever Arnold’s midfield decided to go forward.

Again, that’s how it played out as the Kiwis burst through the midfield before attacking the Socceroos on the flanks.

Perhaps the pest-like nature of midfielder Cameron Devlin would be best suited for such a fixture, and he also cried out for Tom Rogic’s creativity and ability to unlock the opposition’s back line.

But if Arnold chooses Mooy, Hrustic and Irwin in a midfield three in Qatar, there will be serious problems.


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