A thorough analysis of the Olyroos' 2-1 loss to the Republic of Ireland's U/21 side. A first glimpse of Australia's best young players before the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games left much to be desired.
Australia's U/23 national team had a clear age advantage over their 21-year-old Irish opposition, but the Irish - all but three of whom play in the UK - presented a very cohesive unit.
In a match that was in many ways more about individuals than the team, Australia bossed the majority of possession but showed precious little spark or dynamism.
Both sides suffered from a fairly impotent attacking display. The Olyroos had a clear physical advantage and utilised it, but were often caught out tactically, and by the quick feet of their opposition.
Overall, the Olyroos narrowly edged the first half, in which neither goalkeeper was called into action for the first 25 minutes. Australia almost struck early when Zulte-Waregem winger Panos Armenakas delightfully made space in the Irish box, but his goal-bound effort was narrowly blocked.
The match then declined into a stalemate, before an Irish error saw John Iredale win possession in the attacking third. His neat through-ball to Anthony Kalik gifted the Gorica midfielder - playing in an unusually attacking role - a guilt-edged opportunity that he finessed harmlessly into the Irish stopper's mitts.
As the game wore on, Ireland became more dangerous and eventually went ahead after crisp combination play on their right side broke through the Olyroos defence and forced an own goal from Jay-Rich Baghuelou.
Substitute Ramy Najjarine evened things up with a brilliant, powerful effort in the second half and Australia looked more likely to score a winner, not due to their own attacking display, but more the occasional brain-fades from the Irish defenders.
But it was Ireland that snatched victory late, capitalising on poor Australian defending from a quick counter attack to thump an unmarked header past the hapless Olyroos keeper. So how did the individual Olyroos rate? Find out here.
OLYROOS PLAYER RATINGS
Jordan Holmes - 6:
Barely involved in the first half, although he proved strong enough when dealing with lofted balls.
Stepped up the pitch to play a sweeper role confidently, but was almost caught out horribly by an Irish press in the 64th minute. His delivery was overall very good, and he could do very little for either goal Ireland scored, especially the raw deal his defence sold him for Ireland's winner. However, he barely made a save the entire match.
Gabriel Cleur - 7:
Cleur was used constantly down the right side as Australia sought to build quickly through Panos Armenakas. He pushed forward at times adequately, but clearly wasn't used as an overlapping fullback. Still, a fairly confident and astute display.
Jay-Rich Baghuelou - 6.5:
Physically dominant and well positioned, and was one of the most involved Olyroos throughout the contest. Despite his natural advantages, he definitely wasn't entirely comfortable. He seemed the stereotypical lanky big man, dallying awkwardly often and passing poorly at times, although he occasionally showed excellent footwork. Cruelly - and perhaps a little naively - he stuck his leg out when under pressure and smacked in an Ireland cross for an own goal.
Anthony Kalik - 6.5:
He's one of the more experienced campaigners in this squad as a regular performer in the Croatian first tier and it showed, although he still appeared rushed in an unfamiliar set up. He wasted Australia's best chance of the match when he sent a tame effort immediately at the keeper in the first half. But his positioning was strong unusually high up the pitch and he exhibited very strong tackling. Withdrawn for Arzani on the 53rd minute.
Panos Armenakas - 7:
Formerly rated among the world's best young talent, Armenakas was silky, composed and drove towards goal purposely. He was unlucky not to score the breakthrough after showing excellent close control. At times he overcomplicated proceedings, but it wasn't his fault he was regularly left isolated by his teammates. Taken off on the 53rd minute for Ramy Najjarine.
John Iredale - 5.5:
Another who appeared rushed when in possession, the former highly-prolific Wolfsburg youth was imposed upon by the Irish defence and unfortunately strayed offside. He delivered a beautiful through ball to put through Kalik in the first half, but after that appeared slightly absent and uncomfortable. Withdrawn on the 75th for Marlee Francois.
Ryan Teague - 6.5:
Overall, Teague was quite good and heavily involved, always at the centre of Australia's midfield. He showed impressive physical strength that belied his stature. He tackled strongly, and was a little rambunctious. However he lacked pace when it mattered at the end of the match, and that partly cost the Olyroos - he lost his marker when backtracking late, which gave the Irish forward plenty of time and space to deliver the winning assist.
Connor O'Toole - 6:
O'Toole was left flabbergasted for Ireland's first goal, outdone by clinical combination passing on his flank that saw the Irish break past him into dangerous space. He recovered and pushed forward positively in the second half, but often proved a little off the pace. Still, in the final 15 minutes, he unpacked his full crossing arsenal to excellent effect.
Marc Tokich - 5:
Playing in a defensive role he was fairly susceptible, and was nutmegged easily for Ireland's best chance of the first half. He showed solid cover defending and strength off the ball, as well as some beautiful down the line passing. However he was completely caught out for Ireland's final goal. He did nothing but watch as the Irish forwards streamed past him to smash the winning header into the net. He appeared very tired by the end of the contest.
Caleb Watts - 7:
Everywhere. Very positive, calm and collected as you would expect from an emerging Premier League star. Along with Teague, the most involved player in Australia's midfield, playing a key role in switching possession and trying to force some dynamism into the Olyroos approach.
Kristian Popovic - 5:
Fairly invisible, he became increasingly anonymous as the game unfurled. Withdrawn on the 73rd minute for Luka Prso.
Daniel Arzani - 7:
He looked unsurprisingly like the most confident man on the pitch, entering and immediately becoming heavily involved, in a very free, drifting role. He shot willingly, but unsuccessfully and was by far the most animated. However he was also a little too clever for his own good, often flicking passes off their mark.
Ramy Najjarine - 8:
Talk about a bolt from the blue. After Ireland gave the ball away cheaply in their defensive third, Najjarine proved his exceptional finishing ability. He was was pushed wide by a slow Iredale pass, but cut back onto his left boot and hammered a shot into the top left corner from the right edge of the box. He didn't do much other than that, but it was by far the best moment of the match.
Luka Prso - 6.5:
Brought on in a more defensive role and was highly combative in tight areas, with slightly inconsistent passing.
Marlee Francois - N/A:
Australia just couldn't get the Bristol youngster the ball in anything remotely resembling a dangerous position.
Nicholas Pennington - N/A:
Very late substitution.