AUSTRALIA 3-4 ECUADOR
There were certainly more high quality clashes in this mid-week round of International friendlies but none will match this game for pure entertainment. Two of the lightweights of the World Cup field lined up in a friendly at the home of Millwall FC in London with Ecuador come from 3 goals down at half-time to snatch an unlikely win.
For Australia this game strongly bore the imprint of new manager Ange Postecolgou’s ideologies by fielding a youthful and attack minded team, which was ultimately the reason for their demise in this game. There have been calls from the Australian football public for renewal in the ‘Socceroos’ since the last World Cup but these calls have been unheeded by a series of foreign coaches. Postecolgou though has now come in and swept a broom through the side and picked a very youthful side for this encounter and handed debuts to 20 year old Curtis Good (Dundee Utd) and 21 year old Mass Luongo (Swindon Town). Postecolgou also bowed to strong public pressure and dumped Lucas Neill as national captain in favour of Mile Jedinak, who leads Crystal Palace out in the Premier League.
The first half was dominated by the youthful energy and vigour of the Socceroos and it was no surprise when they hit the lead as soon as the 8th minute when Tim Cahill (who was returning to the ground where it all started for him) headed home and in the process became Australia’s leading goal-scorer of all time. Ecuador was stunned by this and it got worse in the 15th minute when Cahill was bundled over in the box and Jedinak stroked home the resultant penalty. Australia’s young guns were full of confidence from this great start and played with an attacking vigour rarely seen in recent years and they completely dominated Ecuador for the remainder of the half. This was further evidenced when the excellent Tommy Oar went for a run down the left flank before the break and set up that man Cahill for his 2nd and Australia’s 3rd for an impressive half-time score of Australia 3 Ecuador 0.
Postecolgou then went to make a game-changing error in the sheds at the break by substituting the Club Brugges keeper Matt Ryan for the Dortmund reserve keeper Mitch Langerak. The 2 young keepers have been duelling in recent times for the right to be crowned Australia’s primary custodian following the shock retirement of Mark Schwarzer and Postecolgou clearly wanted to give each an equal opportunity to impress here. Ecuador’s first goal just after the break was not Langerak’s fault as he was powerless when Jason Davidson slipped in the box to allow his opponent, Fidel Martínez, a simple finish. Minutes later though and Langerak had an absolute brain fade after he aggressively clattered into an Ecuadorian attacker (who was offside but was played on after a poor backpass from the Australian defence) and received his marching orders. Off went Langerak and Tommy Rogic to allow Brad Jones to be the 3rd goalie in the match for Australia and he had no chance of saving the resulting penalty by Segundo Castillo.
The move to field such an inexperience line-up now seemed to backfire on Postecolgou, whose troops were clearly shaken by the prospect of playing with 10 men for the remaining 30 minutes, and they completely dropped their bundle. The rest of the game was completely dominated by a rampant Ecuador who used the extra man and space to tear shreds through Australia’s inexperienced defence and ultimately scored 2 more goals to take this game 4-3 through further goals from Enner Valencia and Edison Méndez. For the victors came the spoils and Ecuador will pleased with the final result and their ability to turn this game around.
Australia will lament what could have been in this match, which could have so easily provided a young team with much needed confidence and momentum ahead of a horror World Cup group phase. The second half was marred by a very poor defensive showing with the defence clearly crying out for an old experienced leader to stabilise it following Langerak’s dismissal. Never has Australia seemingly needed Lucas Neill to get regular playing time than now and his experience would definitely have been telling on the field for this one.
Postecoglou was upbeat after the game though and rightly claimed that when it was 11vs11 that Australia were the superior side and the style in which they played in the first half will satisfy many. He will need to work on eliminating the types of defensive errors displayed today and particularly on keeping 11 men on the pitch in the World Cup, as if Ecuador can put 4 past them in a half imagine what Spain could do. So plenty to ponder for the new man but one wonders whether he has found his starting World Cup goal-keeper after this game.
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