The good, bad and ugly of the Socceroos in Brazil

With Australia’s World Cup campaign over at the first hurdle, the inquest will begin into what went right and wrong ahead of January’s Asian Cup campaign.

Three defeats against Chile (3-1), the Netherlands (3-2) and Spain (3-0) meant the fixtures panned out as most expected but it’s not all doom and gloom; far from it in fact.

Here’s a look at some of the pros and cons we can take from Brazil 2014.

The Good

We learnt that while it’s going to take some time to fully recover from losing the ‘Golden Generation’ of 2006 and 2010, there is some very exciting talent emerging.

The excitement surrounding Mathew Leckie is fully justified following his World Cup performances, and Adam Taggart’s move to Fulham shows that it’s not just Aussies who are sitting up and taking note of the youngsters.

Matthew Spiranovic oozed class at times at centre half, while Jason Davidson has surely cemented the left back position for many years to come.

It was nice to see Tim Cahill sign off from the World Cup with arguably the greatest international goal in Australian football history, while Mark Bresciano also got his fitting swansong after battling injury before and during the competition.

The attitude of the players, most of whom were playing in their first World Cup, was positive every time they took the field and there were periods in each game where they put it up to vastly superior opposition.

Unfortunately, the gulf in class came to the fore eventually but playing without fear will stand the team in good stead.

A mention must be made to the supporters who travelled in numbers to Brazil to support the side; their vocal passion was very audible through the television and the sea of green and gold sounds like it was very well received by locals and other fans alike.

The Bad

Some will consider it harsh to pick on the results but it would have been nice to go home with at least a point in the bag.

Even though expectations were low following the tough group draw, both the Chile and Netherlands games should have yielded a positive result. On each occasion though, the Socceroos failed to take their chances and were punished.

When it was 2-2 against the Dutch, Australia should have retaken the lead as Tommy Oar looked up and spotted Leckie unmarked six yards from goal. For some reason his cross was fired at the latter’s chest rather than slid across the ground and goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen saved easily. Within a minute, the Dutch scored at the other end to win the game.

There were also missed opportunities to tie the contest against Chile and again the Socceroos were punished as Jean Beausejour made it 3-1 in injury time.

Such lessons can be tough to take at the time but Ange Postecoglou is the sort of coach who will make sure that the players learn from their failure to turn chances into goals.

The Ugly

The defending. Dear God, the defending.

There were some horrendous basic errors committed in each of the three games which gifted goals to the opposition.

Spain’s opener was a culmination of a number of mistakes, starting with Jason Davidson getting caught out on the left hand side as Juanfran was given acres of space to put a ball into the box. At the same time, Ryan McGowan was snoozing at right back and David Villa burst past him to connect with a lovely backheel finish inside the six yard box.

Against the Dutch, Davidson was guilty of not pushing out with the rest of back four as Robin van Persie found himself alone in the penalty area with time to tie the game up at two goals apiece. Fingers were also pointed at Mat Ryan for not dealing with Memphis Depay’s strike that resulted in the winning goal.

Heading back to the first game and to be 2-0 down after 14 minutes smacked of stage fright, understandable to a certain extent. Chile were gifted both goals though as Australia’s failure to clear their lines allowed Alexis Sanchez to pounce before Jorge Valdivia was left alone 25 yards from goal to double the lead.

Of course, this wasn’t the Socceroos’ first choice backline with Ivan Franjic’s tournament ending prematurely during the Chile game, while Curtis Good, Trent Sainsbury and Rhys Williams missed out altogether through injury.

With a number of FIFA windows coming up before the Asian Cup, Postecoglou will have ample opportunities to iron out some of the problems.

There seems to be two camps being set up in the immediate aftermath of the team’s exit – those who are satisfied with the glorious failure and the others who are dismayed at the mediocrity that resulted in the country’s worst World Cup showing ever.

The truth is probably somewhere in between and while the attitude of the players could never be called into question, it is important for those in positions of influence (the media in particular) to hang up the pom poms and constructively criticise with the aim of seeing more improvement.

Like the experiences gained on the pitch, Australian football will be better for it.

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Neil has covered the Perth Glory and the Hyundai A-League for five years and is one of Western Australia's most knowledgeable football journalists.