In the wake of a string of poor results, Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou has stressed the importance of experimentation and building for the future.
The time for trial and error is over, however, with the Asian Cup fast approaching.
Australia will play regional heavyweights Japan in Osaka on Tuesday night 9:20pm (AEDT) and this is the final warm-up Postecoglou’s side will get before the tournament gets underway in January.
The coach should use this opportunity against top-class opposition to try out his best possible XI in the formation he intends to use during the Asian Cup.This will serve as both valuable preparation for the tournament proper and a litmus test of just where the national team sits at the moment.
Organisers of the Cup will be hoping the Socceroos are, in reality, better than their current FIFA ranking of 94.
The 94th best side in the world would not be expected to make much of an impact on any continental championship and, as Asian Cup chief executive Michael Brown explained, it is of some importance that the host side perform well.
“Any sporting event which is team-based needs the home team to do well, look at Brazil in the World Cup,” Brown said.
“We’re no different, we want the Socceroos to do well because that brings more people and more focus, but we can’t rely on that.”
When Postecoglou took charge of the team just a few short months before the Brazil World Cup, there was little expectation that they would make much of an impact on that stage, especially considering the quality of opposition in their group.
Australia did indeed lose all three of their matches, but they left Brazil with heads held high after having played some rather dashing football.
Some of that goodwill has evaporated slightly in the months since, as the Socceroos have continued in their losing ways.
The national team has just one win in their past 10 matches; not a record that inspires much confidence heading into a major tournament.
That is why the Japan game is so critical. There will be no more chances to test out an ‘ideal’ XI before the action gets underway in Australia.
Who will join Tim Cahill and (most likely) Matthew Leckie in attack?
Will the World Cup midfield of Mark Milligan, Mark Bresciano and Mile Jedinak remain the preferred lineup?
Who will anchor the backline after the return of several players who were previously unavailable?
Postecoglou will hopefully answer all of these questions by revealing his Asian Cup plans during the Japan encounter.
We have reached the stage where results are important again, and Postecoglou must start to deliver.