Australia takes on Greece tonight in a match that has very little riding on it and it’s for that reason that I see this as a massive test for the Socceroos. Australia has made a habit of rising to the challenge against big name rivals but Greece who couldn’t even qualify for a 24 team Euro 2016 are hardly the opposition they once were. Making things a little more interesting is the fact fellow Asian confederation heavyweights Japan last night dispatched of hapless Bulgaria 7-2 to highlight there credentials.
In a Australia’s recent loss to England a lot was made of the possession (54%) and dominance of the Socceroos’ midfield. There were some promising performances from the likes of Tom Rogic and Aaron Mooy in particular. But just how motivated was England?
For the Socceroos playing England in nostalgic surrounds is the pinnacle. There would have been little to do for manager Postecoglou in terms of motivating the men. Now it will be different. Australia will be expected to win and if they do win, the rest of the world won’t bat an eyelid.
In today’s Daily Telegraph Socceroos manager Postecoglou made a point of Australia’s affection for being the underdog, “Even when we were great, with our golden generation, what we liked about it was that we were punching above our weight . . .” he said.
This mentality has plagued the team for years, and as Postecoglou indicated their is a larger societal element that underpins the thinking. “We’d much rather others put us down and we prove them wrong,” the manager said, referring to Australia’s reluctance to stand proud and self assured on the platform built by their achievements.
We do have a unique character. How often do other nations shake in the shadow of more illustrious opposition, while Australian teams relish this kind of opportunity. On the other hand Australian teams often struggle to deal with expectation and pressure.
Tonight it’s a case of the latter. Despite not winning against European opponents since Holger Osieck’s men dispatched of Germany (another big name) in 2011, the Aussies are expected to win. Their opponents Greece failed to qualify for Euro 2016, a tournament that only the truly mediocre could not qualify for.
For punters and neutrals it should be noted Sydney’s weather forecast is not good. Along with precipitation that has already rained down, there is estimated to be upwards of 80mm of rain fall over the next 24 hours. Pair that with 30/40 km winds and things could be a little unpredictable. The question is can Australia overcome there problems dealing with less illustrious opponents and can they adapt to conditions not conducive to their pass and press style.