Australia’s footballers were urged to rediscover their cutting edge and sense of direction as they headed home after a winless World Cup where they failed to score any goals from open play.
National media called it a “meek exit” as the Socceroos, under caretaker coach Bert van Marwijk, lost 2-0 to Peru to finish bottom of Group C — their third straight failure to reach the knock-out rounds.
The reigning Asian champions only scored two goals in three matches, both penalties drilled in by captain Mile Jedinak, highlighting their lack of a top-class striker.
Graham Arnold will now take over for his second stint as coach after Ange Postecoglou walked out in November, a turn of events which prompted Dutchman van Marwijk’s hiring as an interim measure.
“There are valuable lessons to be learned. At this level you need a quality number nine, someone who can take their chances. If you don’t you will get punished,” said The Australian’s football writer Ray Gatt.
“To go through the tournament without scoring a goal in open play pretty well sums it up.”
TV commentator Craig Foster criticised van Marwijk’s tactics after the Dutchman — who took the Netherlands to the 2010 World Cup final — abandoned the more adventurous approach employed by Postecoglou.
“We threw out a plan of four years and went with a completely different strategy and in the end, we should be looking at it and saying, ‘When we went at these teams, we showed what we could do it,’ but we didn’t do it enough,” Foster said.
“That wasn’t the Australian way, no… that wasn’t what we’re capable of in terms of a football country. I can’t accept that.”
With veteran Tim Cahill widely expected to retire after only a cameo appearance in Russia, and the emergence of exciting prospect Daniel Arzani, there is likely to be a changing of the guard under Arnold.
“Brave? Unlucky? Perhaps, but Russia has exposed the Socceroos to the brutal World Cup realities,” said the Sydney Daily Telegraph, adding that their lack of a goalscorer was “ruthlessly exploited”.
“Is Australia’s player pool too shallow and did this team do as well as could be expected of them? Is the A-League doing enough to aid the Socceroos?”
National broadcaster ABC said that “Australian football needs clarity, ambition, direction, rejuvenation”.
“Mile Jedinak described a feeling of ’emptiness’ after the tournament-ending loss to Peru, and it’s a feeling most Socceroos fans will share,” national broadcaster ABC said.
“Not just for the meek exit in Sochi, but for the overwhelming sense this is a footballing country without a sense of direction.”
Van Marwijk described the team’s Russia campaign as “not a success but also not a failure” and some fans took heart from what they saw.
“That hurts! Well done @Socceroos you made the Football World take more notice… unfortunately couldn’t punish the teams with our great opportunities!” tweeted Mitchell Duke.
— Mitchell Duke (@mitchduke8) June 26, 2018
Fellow user Peter Tesch added: “Not the Socceroos’ day. Well done, Peru. But proud of the @Socceroos and @FFA and of the fans for the great spirit and commitment they have shown to date.”
— Peter Tesch (@PosolAustralia) June 26, 2018
© Agence France-Presse