SOCCEROOS coach Ange Postecoglou has set his players the target of bridging the gap with the world’s best teams after watching Australia succumb to Spain 3-0 today.
Admitting that his players had wilted in the intensity of their third World Cup game, Postecoglou said they had learnt the hard way that lapses of concentration would be brutally exposed at the highest level.
The Australian coach was adamant that the defeat would not detract from the positivity established by the performances in the side’s first two games, if not by the results, and that his side now had a scale against which to measure themselves.
“I think we have shown this tournament that we have the right intent, we were positive and pushed some of the best countries in the world,” Postecoglou said.
“But we are not a top 15 nation right now and that’s what we have to push for in the next four years, we have to try and bridge that gap.
“Ultimately we have come here and lost all three games. We haven’t got the results we wanted. We came here with intent trying to make impact with a couple of results and it hasn’t happened.
“One objective was to measure ourselves against the very best and I think we have done that, so we know exactly where we are at.
“In my mind, I’ve got a clear indication of where we are as a nation and what we need to improve on to make sure the gap between us and the top 20 nations is bridged.”
The Australians visibly tired during the game, as their efforts iin the previous games – and of spending increasing periods chasing Spain in possession – finally began to tell.
Postecoglou admitted that the fatigue had led to errors as the players’ concentration wavered, with Spain three times opening up the Australian defence.
But he said that those key moments had illustrated to his squad the need for mental intensity, in a way theoretical coaching couldn’t teach.
“For a lot of these guys, this has been a massive effort physically, mentally, emotionally,” he said.
“They were three massive games but that is the level at which we have to perform and there is no hiding from it.
“We certainly found out with a few of the boys today that they really struggled, particularly after the first 10 or 15 minutes, with the effort that was required.
“We lost our discipline and our decision making wasn’t great. We gave the ball away far too cheaply, which we haven’t been doing this tournament.
“The lapses in concentration and mistakes will end up costing you a goal and until you end up going through that it’s very hard for us to impart the critical points of the game in which they need to be concentrating.
“So we need to keep giving these guys opportunities and exposing them to this level of football so that they get an understanding of the concentration that’s needed.
“Apart from the physical effort and tactical discipline, it’s the concentration and I think more than anything that has really shown us up this tournament.
“There have been critical moments both in an attacking and defensive sense where we haven’t been as efficient or ruthless as the opposition has.
“We need to improve that, and our depth. Having said that, we down quite a number, particularly today, of players who now have the challenge to break into this team and make this squad a really competitive one.”
Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque congratulated Postecoglou afterwards, wishing him luck in the Asian Cup, and admitted that the Socceroos had enjoyed much the better opening to the game.
“Australia did very well against Chile and Holland and they were a very hard opponent,” he said. “The first 15 minutes they controlled us very well and for a few minutes we were not sure what would happen.
“But we kept calm and reacted very well. We played comfortably. I am happy today but not overall.”