Opinion

Five things we learned from Australia's loss to South Korea in the AFC U-23 semi-final

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Australia lost 2-0 to Korea Republic in the semi-final of the AFC U-23 Championships in Thailand on Wednesday. The World Game learned five things from what was a disappointing evening in Rangsit.

Australia were completely outclassed

When was the last time, an Australian national team was second best to such a degree against Asian opposition?

Korea were dominant from start to finish and were just a class above in all areas.

They were faster, fitter, technically much better, more imaginative, creative and energetic.

At times, their slick interplay and running was a delight to watch. In contrast, Australia were sluggish, short of ideas and second best. 

In the first half, it looked a little like another Australian slow start in this tournament but it soon became apparent that the Olyroos were getting the runaround and it lasted for the full 90. It actually got worse in the second half. 

Graham Arnold cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines.

Korea were happy to let Australia have the ball in deep positions but pressed energetically when near the halfway line.

It worked while nothing Arnold tried did: the rotation, the tactics, the substitutions -anything. All he could do was watch as Australia were beaten by a much better team.

Damning that Australia didn’t create any chances

Australia were outshot 20 to 1 with a Dylan Ryan shot from outside the area late in the first half going wide of the post.

For much of the tournament, Australia has blown hot and cold in attack but in this game, virtually nothing was created.

Allowing Korea to make the running can work only if there is a plan to get at their defence, something that has clearly been the weakness of the team in the previous four games. 

With the team, dominated by the technically superior Koreans in midfield, the forwards were feeding off less than scraps and even when Australia started to push forward with a little more urgency in the second half, there were still no chances created and they never got behind the red backline.

In the final seconds, the men in green and gold actually had the ball in a dangerous position but instead of swinging the corner into the danger zone, passed the ball backwards and lost possession.

It summed up a dismal day. 

Olyroos needed their own Kevin De Bruyne

Some call Kim Dae-won the ‘Korean Kevin De Bruyne’ and it was easy to see why.

This budding star was everywhere in the Australian half, causing all sorts of problems with his running, intelligence, vision and all-around ability. The defenders struggled to pick him up.

In short, he gave Australia the run-around. 

He opened the scoring, should have scored again and shown once again that he has a bright future.

Australia just did not have anyone similar, lacking a player with that kind of mischievous and creative presence who had the confidence to try and make things happen.  

Not only that, even when Korea made substitutions to bring on more attacking players, such as second goalscorer Lee Dong-gyeong, they slotted into attack seamlessly. 

There was one positive. Tom Glover looked assured.

If there is anything to be mildly happy about it is that the scoreline was not heavier.

Had Korea been a little more clinical and the goalposts a little narrower than 2-0 could have been 3 or 4-0 and that would have been a more accurate reflection of the action.  

There are not many positives to take from the game but Tom Glover looked pretty assured between the sticks.

He could do little to nothing about the two goals and made some solid saves in the face of Korean attacks coming from all over the pitch.

If the Melbourne City man can keep it up against Uzbekistan then the Olympic dream will still be on. 

The Olympic dream is still on but…

Obviously things need to improve.

Australia came up against the best team in the tournament and were found wanting. Uzbekistan are not quite as formidable as the Koreans and looked tired in their semi-final defeat against Saudi Arabia but the defending champions are desperate to get to the Olympics for the first time ever.

Australia have to be everything against Uzbekistan that they weren’t against the Taeguk Warriors: quick off the blocks, energetic and creative. 

Australia have been, at times, overly reactive in the tournament but on Saturday, there has to be aggression and energy right from the get-go. The Olympics are still within reach.