Disappointed Aussies still dreaming of Russia, Coach Ange Postecoglou says his team will hit the ground running in their arduous World Cup play-off against Syria, brushing aside frustration at failing to qualify automatically for Russia.
The Socceroos beat Thailand 2-1 in their final Asian qualifying Group B game on Tuesday, but with Saudi Arabia upsetting Japan 1-0 it consigned them to a dangerous two-leg play-off against the war-ravaged Syrians.
The winner of that tie will then battle North and Central America’s (CONCACAF) fourth-placed qualifier in November for a spot at the global showpiece.
“It’s obviously a more difficult road,” said Postecoglou on Wednesday in Melbourne.
“We’ve just got to switch our minds and to getting prepared for them … we’ll get info on the opposition, get organised logistically and hit the ground running.
“The players have been fantastic throughout the whole qualifying series,” he added. “I see still a real determination to see this through. As long as that’s there, we will continue down that path.”
Syria earned their place in the play-offs with a 2-2 Group A draw with Iran in Tehran, thanks to a stoppage-time equaliser.
The first leg is on October 5, with Syria’s home venue yet to be decided, though they have been playing their ‘home’ games in Malaysia, and the return will be five days later in Australia.
The Socceroos missed out to the Saudis on goal difference, with their failure to put more goals past the Thais being criticised by two former Australian internationals — Mark Bosnich and Robbie Slater.
Slater said it was time for Postecoglou to go, tweeting that “we need a new approach! Socceroos have lost there (sic) way”.
Postecoglou brushed off the flak, saying he was “not everyone’s cup of tea”.
“What do you do? I took the role to do it a certain way and I’ll see it through,” he added.
“I’ve survived much worse than this and if anything it motivates me to keep going because I want to make sure Australian football gets on the right path.”
Many in the Melbourne crowd on Tuesday couldn’t believe the Socceroos only managed two goals, with the team having 45 shots and hitting the post three times.
“If there was a more one-sided contest, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it,” said Postecoglou.
“Forty-five shots, 20-odd inside the box, three posts, one cleared off the line. The goalkeeper’s pulled off some great saves.
“Usually when the evidence is so overwhelming, you get the rewards.”