Ange Postecoglou full of praise for Aussie effort
Played three, lost three and bottom of Group B is not a World Cup record any country would be proud of but when you are coming from the dark place Australia were in eight months ago, success is a relative term.
The 3-0 defeat by Spain this morning which ensured that 2014 would be the worst of their four World Cup campaigns was the most disappointing performance of their three in Brazil.
Coach Ange Postecoglou will not be alone, however, in thinking that, taking their campaign as a whole, his young and inexperienced squad had shown enough positives for considerable optimism for the future.
''I think we've shown up in this tournament with the right intent,'' he told reporters in Curitiba.
''When we have been positive and backed ourselves and had belief, we've pushed some of the best countries in the world.
''But we're not a top 15 nation right now and that's what we've got to try and be in the next four years. We've got to push on and try and bridge that gap.
''If people think this is a setback I'm not really fussed to be honest. I think enough people in Australia appreciate the efforts of the players.''
That effort gave Chile an almighty scare in an opening match in Cuiaba which, despite the South Americans taking an early 2-0 lead, was in the balance until a stoppage-time goal from Jean Beausejour sealed a 3-1 defeat.
They rocked the Dutch in their second match too, with Tim Cahill's volleyed contender for goal of the tournament just the highlight as the Socceroos played a full part in a 3-2 thriller in Porto Alegre.
The defeat by deposed world champions Spain on Sunday was a bridge too far and confirmation of what a tough group Australia, the lowest ranked team in the tournament, had drawn.
''Obviously, it's a disappointing way for us to finish the tournament but full credit to Spain, they are a very good football side,'' Postecoglou added.
''I thought after the first 10 or 15 minutes we started pretty well, they got into a rhythm and dominated the game.
''We really struggled after that to get into our game ourselves. We just looked a little bit tired. We've faced three world class opponents and today we really struggled.''
If there was an ominous portent for the future it was that their worst game came with Cahill, who has scored five of his country's 11 goals at the last three World Cups, suspended and fellow veteran Mark Bresciano starting on the bench.
Postecoglou embarked on what many thought was a long overdue clearout of Australia's 'golden generation' when he was appointed eight months ago and his squad was filled with players with fewer than 10 caps.
''For a lot of these guys this has been a massive effort both physically and mentally and emotionally,'' he said.
''Three massive games but that's the level at which you have to perform. There's no hiding from it. That's the level we've got to reach.''
Postecoglou was appointed on a five-year contract in place of German Holger Osieck eight months ago after Australia were beaten 6-0 by Brazil and France in back-to-back friendlies.
He was given no public target for Brazil but was instructed by Australian soccer supremo Frank Lowy that he was expected to make the Socceroos the No 1 team in Asia.
Postecoglou will have a chance to attain that goal in January when Australia host the Asian Cup - a task that now looks a lot easier after the poor showing of the teams from the continent in Brazil.
The tempo the Socceroos showed in attack in Brazil is sure to trouble sides a lot weaker than Spain, the Netherlands and Chile, while players like winger Mathew Leckie are only going to get better with more international minutes.
''Ultimately we've come here and lost all three games so we haven't got the results we wanted,'' Postecoglou said.
''We came here with the intent of trying to make an impact and have the results and it hasn't happened.''But we've measured ourselves against the very best. I've got a clear indication of where we're at as a nation and where we need to improve.''