The Socceroos admit they are lacking an “extra bit of quality” to not only challenge the world’s best teams, but beat them.
Despite having a handful of good chances, Australia was beaten 1-0 by an experimental England side in front of more than 81,000 fans at Wembley on Saturday morning (AEDT).
As always, the gallant Socceroos showed “courage” and “bravery” in standing up to a powerhouse footballing nation.
But having in the past 10 months drawn with Mexico, and lost to world champions Argentina (twice), Ecuador and now England, a brave defeat is no longer enough.
“We can go toe-to-toe with all the big nations – we respect everybody but we don’t fear anybody,” said Socceroos assistant coach Rene Meulensteen. who addressed the media in place of hoarse head coach Graham Arnold after the Wembley loss.
“We are just trying to find that extra bit of quality to really put them to the sword – that is what we’re looking for.”
Finding it is easier said than done, particularly when it comes to finding a regular goalscorer at international level.
Striker Mitch Duke came close to scoring with a stinging volley, but the Socceroos’ best chances against England fell to defenders Ryan Strain and Kye Rowles, and midfielder Connor Metcalfe.
“We were very well organised, very well structured, the players played with courage and bravery when we could, and with a bit more luck, we could have scored at least two goals,” Meulensteen said.
England had fewer chances but were more clinical, with a 57th-minute goal from Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins proving the difference.
Watkins played in the centre-forward position usually occupied by England captain Harry Kane.
With the English team also in action at Wembley on Wednesday morning (AEDT) against Italy in a Euro 2024 qualifier, Kane, as well as star Real Madrid midfielder Jude Bellingham, were among a host of regulars not used against the Socceroos.
Meulensteen said regardless of who played for England, it should not take away from the plaudits the Socceroos deserved.
“Sometimes in football, you can play a game and results are not going for you, and you try to look at what the causes are, but this is one of those losses where you can be really proud of the performance,” he said.
“We played against a very strong nation. They have a very big game coming up in a few days against Italy as we all know, and they can field two world-class teams without a shadow of a doubt.”
The Australians also return to action on Wednesday morning when they meet New Zealand at Gtech Community Stadium, the home ground of west London-based English Premier League club Brentford.
The smaller venue should ensure Arnold does not finish that game with no voice, having screamed himself into submission after 90 minutes at Wembley.
“I tried to warn him … (but) ‘Arnie’ is so passionate about Australian football, about the young players and about the national team,” Meulensteen said.
“He just can’t help himself but he paid the price.”