Football

Postecoglou sticks to his guns

Australia coach shrugs off criticism after Socceroos miss out on automatic spot

Under-pressure Australia coach Ange Postecoglou has defended his coaching methods and said the Socceroos will stick to their high-tempo game plan despite missing out on direct qualification for next year's World Cup Finals.

After Australia managed only a 2-1 win over Thailand on Tuesday, Saudi Arabia's 1-0 defeat of Japan condemned the Socceroos to a home-and-away play-off against Syria next month.

If they get through that, the Socceroos will face the fourth-placed team in Central and North American qualifying over two legs in November for a berth in Russia.

Australia's lack of finishing ability has been a hallmark of their campaign, heaping pressure on Postecoglou for trying to fashion an attacking game from a team lacking world-class players.

Against Thailand, they attempted 45 shots, hit the woodwork thrice, but scored only twice.

Postecoglou, however, said he would bear the criticism and claimed his side was close to finding the consistency to challenge the best.

"I said before the game that I'm not everyone's cup of tea, mate. So what do you do? You get on with life," Postecoglou said in Melbourne yesterday.

"My position's my position. My position is I'm coach of the national team, it's a great honour. I took the role to do it a certain way and I'll see it through.

"The Australian football industry chewed me up and spat me out 10 years ago.

"So, this is nothing new. It doesn't change my conviction of what I think is right for our game in our country and I'll see it through.

"I won't be pushed into the shadows of Australian football like others, just by just bowing to certain parts.

"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."

Postecoglou's position has been openly challenged by former Australia goalkeeper and TV pundit Mark Bosnich, who said the man had lost his way after guiding Australia to their 2015 Asian Cup triumph.

Social media was also littered with disgruntled fans calling for the 52-year-old's head.

Australia were defeated 2-0 by Japan last week after also dominating possession but Postecoglou said his team were just struggling for consistency.

"I don't think it's a massive improvement (needed), I think it's just a bit more consistency in what we're doing," he said.

"That's probably the hardest gap to bridge because only the very best can do it.

"That's that final little hurdle for us and we'll keep having a crack at it, I don't think we're far away."

The sombre mood in Australia was in stark contrast to the jubilant scenes in Saudi Arabia, where fans celebrated their national team's progress to the Finals by beating the Socceroos to second place in Group B on goal difference.

The Saudis defeated group winners Japan 1-0 at home yesterday morning (Singapore time), thanks to a goal by substitute Fahad Al Muwallad.

In Syria, government backers and rebel supporters alike roared with joy when Omar Al Soma scored a 93rd-minute equaliser to rescue a 2-2 draw with Group A winners Iran.

The goal secured a spot for Syria in the Asian play-offs, sparking rare celebrations at home where a brutal six-year war has killed hundreds of thousands.

Syria have never qualified for the World Cup. - WIRE SERVICES

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