The Socceroos have opened their East Asian Cup campaign with a 0-0 draw against hosts Korea Republic on Saturday. The Australian side being forced to count on the goalkeeping heroics of Eugene Galekovic in order to take a point from their first appearance at the tournament.
Coach Holger Osieck was upbeat about the result at the Olympic Stadium in Seoul, despite his side being outplayed by their opposition. With the majority of his squad coming from the A-League which is currently out-of-season and many new faces in the group, Osieck felt the Socceroos could be proud of their performance.
"Korea played as I expected, a young, ambitious team, they had great pace, good technique and they definitely put us under pressure," he said.
"But we must consider that their team is in the middle of the season, and their fitness was outstanding, whereas our boys have not played competitively for a couple of months.
"So I knew I would be very difficult for us, as our fitness wasn't as good as it is normally. But I want to give full credit for the boys for character, effort and fighting spirit."
The EAFF East Asian Cup is being staged outside of FIFA sanctioned dates, therefore clubs are not required to release their players for international duty. As such Socceroo regulars Archie Thompson and Mark Milligan were among only a handful of familiar faces that were a part of Australia’s successful World Cup qualification campaign, which will see the Socceroos travel to Brazil next year.
Thompson had the opportunity to become Australia’s all-time leading goal scorer by equaling the 29 goal mark held by Damian Mori. However it was not to be on this occasion and the Melbourne Victory striker remains one goal behind the record – equal with good friend Tim Cahill. Meanwhile Milligan became the 56th Socceroos captain when he led the team out.
However it was the remarkable form of Galekovic that was the talking point after the match, with suggestions the Adelaide United shot-stopper can challenge Mark Schwarzer for the regular number one shirt, and Osieck admitted this was a possibility.
"I can only agree that Galekovic had a great performance, the way he played today put him in the frame," he said.
"As I said before, this will be a good opportunity for me to look at players for the future and there were definitely some outstanding individual performance that gives me hope that some of these players can stay with the team and become contestants for a position."
The Socceroos continue their East Asian Cup campaign against recent adversaries Japan on Thursday night after the Blue Samurai played out a pulsating 3-3 with China. They will need a vastly improved performance if they are to challenge the highest ranked country in Asia but the Socceroos always seem to rise to the occasion when national pride is on the line.
Meanwhile, Korea Republic will play China on Wednesday night in what shapes as another great match-up. We had a huge crowd in at SSC on Saturday night, where allegiances were somewhat tested throughout the pulsating contest. Join us for all the remaining games of the tournament as we wait to see who will be crowned East Asian champions.