'Frontiersman' Postecoglou to stay the course
Australia coach Ange Postecoglou says the Socceroos are sticking to their high-risk, high-reward game for their World Cup playoff against Syria despite it failing to secure a direct ticket to next year's finals in Russia.
After Australia's 0-2 loss to Japan and a labored 2-1 win over Thailand, Postecoglou heads into the two-leg playoff under huge pressure but defiant that his highly criticized 3-2-4-1 formation will ultimately bear fruit.
“I understand people have got a bit of angst about the formation. We’ll continue on,” he told a media conference in Sydney on Wednesday.
“I get people are uncomfortable, some people are not entirely pleased with the direction but I took this job to break some new frontiers.
"You can’t do that on paved roads, you’ve got to go off track, (there might be) little bumps on the way but we’ll forge ahead. I still believe this is the way we’ve got to go."
Australia plays the first leg of the playoff in Malacca, Malaysia, on October 5, with Syria forced to play its home matches away due to security concerns in the war-torn country.
The return match will be played in Sydney on October 10 with the winner still needing to go into a two-leg intercontinental playoff with the fourth-placed team from North and Central American qualifying to get to Russia.
Postecoglou's formation has left its defense exposed on the counter-attack, a vulnerability which Japan and Thailand both exploited to score goals.
The coach said he expected Syria to also play off the ball.
"They’ll sit back ... they’ll sit back and make it hard for us as most teams do,” he said.
"And it’ll be up to us to force them open and hopefully make them chase us.
"Our approach won’t change, we’ll try to take the game to them."
Australia is bidding to reach a fourth successive World Cup, with plucky Syria aiming for its maiden appearance.
The Socceroos will have to do it without captain Mile Jedinak for at least the Asia playoff, with the stalwart midfielder still struggling with a long-term groin injury.
A failure to take Australia to Russia would almost certainly cost Postecoglou his job, despite the goodwill earned by guiding the side to its maiden Asian Cup title on home soil in 2015.
"Ideally, the plan was to qualify directly," he said.
“But if we get four really good pressurized games and get through it’ll do us the world of good as a squad.
"Not ideal, I understand that."
Aziz Behich, Craig Goodwin, Nikita Rukavytsya and Matthew Jurman are all included in his 23-man squad, along with Josh Risdon. But the likes of Jamie Maclaren, Alex Gersbach and Ryan McGowan are missing, AFP reports.
Australia has appeared at the last three World Cups, reaching the knockout stages in 2006 with a golden generation of stars such as Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill.
The evergreen Cahill is still going strong as he looks to join an elite group of players to feature at four World Cups.