Australia have been unable to kick off their Confederations Cup campaign in ideal fashion, falling to world champions Germany 3-2 in Sochi on Tuesday morning.
Goals from Lars Stindl, Julian Draxler and Leon Goretzka were enough for Joachim Low’s team to make the most of a dominant first 50 minutes, cancelling out Tom Rogic and Tomi Juric’s efforts.
If not for some Mat Ryan heroics, the scoreline could have ballooned even further before the break.
The Socceroos were much improved in the final 40, peppering the Germany goal but were unable to find the all important equaliser.
Die Mannschaft’s win draws them level at the top of Group B alongside Chile, due to face the South American champs next matchday.
Meanwhile, Ane Postecoglou’s team will enter its second game against Cameroon locked on zero points with the African title holders.
Mass Luongo just is not a No.6
If it was not clear enough against Brazil seven days ago, then the fact that Luongo simply is not suited to the holding midfield role and that was laid absolutely bare against the world champions. He was thrown to the wolves for a second time and used out of position.
The QPR midfielder was drafted into the position in Mile Jedinak’s absence alongside Mark Milligan and a dominant Germany midfield exposed his defensive shortcomings, subbed at half time.
Goretzka ran amok while Sebastian Rudy screened the back four expertly. Luongo looked all at sea dealing with the former and was punished, giving away a quickfire penalty after Australia had equalised. He was not alone in ballwatching as Die Mannschaft opened the scoring.
No one can say Luongo has not been the same player since the Asian Cup. In those days, he played further up the field and played with freedom, able to create and, notably, score that all important goal at ANZ Stadium against South Korea.
In the Socceroos’ next match against Chile, Luongo either needs to be pushed into a No.10 role or demoted to the bench. Luongo is a terrific footballer. He has proven that. Just not as a midfield anchor.
Aaron Mooy dropped back into the role in a half time tactical switch, and that helped swing some momentum in the Socceroos’ favour. Mooy plus Milligan is the way to go forward.
I’m seeing stars here
The Socceroos must have been. How else can two unforgivable instances of ballwatching be explained? Both the opening and third goals came about as a result of Socceroo spectating, and Luongo was not alone in that instance.
All three Germany goals were a fusion of quality and opposition error.
Australia were made to pay cash by Stindl and Goretzka, the latter of whom was one of the real stars of the show and arguably the cream of Germany’s young crop on the day.
That was to add to the misfortune of the back three, who often looked at sixes and sevens either drawn to the play or situated too wide.
Julian Brandt and Joshua Kimmich also shone in the wide positions, and the Bayer Leverkusen youngster in particular will draw the eye of Europe’s big boys should he continue on current form.
Flattering scorecard? Well…
Australia were much, much better in the second half – at least after conceding just three minutes into it – and were good value for Juric’s goal.
It did not really outweigh what was a dominant Germany first period, who, if not for Ryan in goal, could have been out of sight before too long. Even a 2-1 advantage seemed an injustice.
To look at the positives, the ship steadied ten fold in the final 40 minutes and the Socceroos were able to establish something of a toehold as time wore on, maintaining possession far better than what was seen in a poor opening 45.
No result eventuated for the Green and Gold and the 3-2 Germany win was the right result on balance, but what looked like a potential blowout early was not all bad in the end.