Analysis: Socceroos shine in San Pedro Sula
San Pedro Sula: Australia put on an dominant display to earn an important 0-0 draw against Honduras in the first leg of their FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia Intercontinental Play-off at the Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano on Friday evening.
While it didn’t find the back of the net, the general performance from the Socceroos will please coach Ange Postecoglou as he now looks ahead to Wednesday’s crucial second leg at Stadium Australia in Sydney.
Return of the Jedi
Australian captain Mile Jedinak came into the match underdone after just over 90 minutes of action for Aston Villa this season after overcoming a groin injury. In a typically dogged display, he showed why he is so important to this Socceroos side.
He may not be the flashiest player, but his presence and leadership, two intangibles that cannot be measured, are immense and provide so much to this Socceroos side.
He has one job to do, and that’s shielding and protecting the back three, and he does it extremely well.
As his heat map below shows, he doesn’t stray forward too often, but he patrols and controls the middle of the park like few other players.
Paired with a more creative and attacking-minded player like Massimo Luongo, the two provided the perfect midfield pairing for the Socceroos in the middle of the park.
Is there a more in-form Australian player right now than Aaron Mooy? As was the case with the first leg of the playoff against Syria, Mooy was simply sublime in the middle of the park on a really difficult pitch.
Conditions at the Estadio OlImpico Metropolitano weren't suited to ball-playing midfielders, but Mooy nevertheless mastered produced a masterful display.
The only thing that let him down on the evening was his set-pieces, but aside from that his general play was outstanding.
Playing to the left in an advanced midfield position, the graphic below demonstrates the mountain of work he got through on the evening.
What it doesn’t show is the quality of his touch, which numerous times created chances for the Socceroos.
What will also please Ange Postecoglou is how well he combined with left wing-back Aziz Behich, who also enjoyed one of his best games in the green and gold.
It was a dominant performance from the Socceroos, so one might think that would mean their defence was untested on the evening, but that wasn’t exactly the case.
While they didn’t have a lot to do, when they were called upon they were outstanding.
A lot has been said and written about Ange Postecoglou’s decision to play a back three, but on this occasion Trent Sainsbury, Bailey Wright(pictured above, right) and Matt Jurman worked perfectly together.
As the above graphic highlights, showing clearances, blocks, recoveries and interceptions, between the three of them they had important roles to play in disrupting the Honduras attack and not giving them a sniff.
Sainsbury in particular was a standout, and made a sensational last-ditch tackle to deny Carlos Lanza a shot on goal in just the fourth minute of the match, a tackle that ultimately proved very important.