The Good, the Bad & the Ugly: Socceroos v Jordan

by Ben Somerford on Jan 07, 2019

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Well, what was that? That’s what everyone watching live last night or waking up to the result this morning was asking after reigning champions Australia suffered a 1-0 loss to Jordan in their 2019 Asian Cup opener.

GGArmy’s Ben Somerford runs the rule over the good, the bad and the ugly (the latter two won’t be hard to identify!).

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The Good
On an evening like last night, positives were few and far between. Mathew Ryan was assured in goals and made a superb finger-tip save from a Jordan free-kick to keep it 1-0 in the first half. He otherwise didn’t have much to do, beyond stretching out numerous Jordanian players’ ‘cramps’.

In-form Perth Glory winger Chris Ikonomidis was introduced in the 55th minute and provided a spark, which suggests he may start next up. The ex-Lazio man created two of Australia’s best chances in the late stages, lashing in a low left-foot shot at the death, while he also fired home a rebound too.

He offered a willingness to get on the ball and take on the Jordan defence, which was completely absent in the opening 45 minutes. Ikonomidis replaced the player fans love to hate, Robbie Kruse, and it’s reasonable to think Kruse may have lost his grip on a starting XI spot as a result.

The Bad
Where do we start? Despite 77 per cent of the possession throughout the 90 minutes, Australia didn’t really muster up enough in attack to warrant a win. Australia’s best chances came in the second half, and it’s fair to say the opening 45 were poor.

The midfield triumvirate of Tom Rogic, Massimo Luongo and Mark Milligan struggled for penetration, with the Celtic man particularly reluctant to turn and take on the opposition defence. Too often the Socceroos went wide, resulting in crosses aimed at their lone man up front Jamie Maclaren, who stands at 1.79m tall. That’s not a formula for success.

Jordan’s holding midfielders and defence gobbled up Australia’s naivety and broke with pace and will on the counter too.

Out wide Awer Mabil seemed nervous while Kruse simply isn’t delivering the quality required. In attack, Maclaren was starved of adequate service too. The approach seemed to change slightly in the second half, with more bodies in the box and more of a focus on low or drilled balls into the danger zone, but it was hardly methodical.

The question pre-tournament burgeoning from our World Cup experience was where will the goals come from? This game offered no answers to that and, to be honest, it’s created more questions.

The Ugly
While there’s no excuses for the defeat, the Asian Football Confederation’s decision for the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) only to be used from the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup is baffling. Why is the technology good enough for the knockouts but not the group stage?

The VAR tends to be something fans love or hate depending on if their side was wronged by its presence, but it’s clear it would have resolved a few issues from Sunday’s match. For starters, Australia were denied a stonewall penalty following a handball from Feras Shelbaieh, whose arm was in an unnatural position when it connected with the ball inside the box.

Jordan had their own shout in the second half too, when Aziz Behich completely fluffed a routine clearance, heading the ball into his upper-arm/shoulder. That one was more dubious, but the point still stands on VAR.

And finally, the VAR would have awarded Australia a late equaliser when Maclaren swooped on a rebound to put the ball into the back of the net, only to be denied by an incorrect offside decision. Maclaren was onside from Rogic’s initial shot which deflected off two Jordanian defenders, and not Socceroo Ikonomidis as the referee deemed, before falling to Maclaren.

It was a tough call in the heat of the moment but it’s why VAR should be used. 

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