SYDNEY: Australia coach Ange Postecoglou said his team could still get better at the Asian Cup after two emphatic wins showed his rebuilding efforts are paying off.
Thumping 4-1 and 4-0 victories over Kuwait and Oman have put the hosts into the quarter-finals but Postecoglou said there was more to come as tougher challenges await.
Australia came into the Asian Cup ranked 100th in the world after a virtually winless 2014, but Postecoglou’s approach in reconstructing the squad now looks vindicated.
After a period of trying out players and instilling his philosophy, the former A-League club boss now has a motivated and flexible Asian Cup squad with eight different goal-scorers already.
“After conceding a poor goal in that first game our reaction was fantastic and our football was good,” Postecoglou told reporters late on Tuesday.
“We probably went up another level tonight, as we expected, and we expect to improve as we go through the tournament. We made three changes tonight and we made some early substitutions but as you saw the team didn’t miss a beat.”
He added: “We’ve still got improvement in us and from my perspective that’s what we’ll be emphasizing to the players, that whatever we’ve done so far has been good but we can certainly get better.”
Despite an encouraging World Cup, Australia’s lone win last year was a 3-2 result against Saudi Arabia in September. The last time they scored four in a match was in June 2013 under Holger Osieck.
Postecoglou, who was appointed after Osieck’s sacking in late 2013, said a training camp in Japan in November was the time when things finally started to gel.
“We had a good 10 days in camp and I could see that the players were really beginning to embrace what we were doing,” he said.
“Whilst we didn’t win in Japan (they lost a friendly 1-0), from a coaching perspective we were really encouraged by the performance and we thought well, if we can do that against a very good Japanese side in Japan, we’re on the right track.”
Australia will now face a sterner test in the shape of South Korea on Saturday, a clash which will decide who finishes top of Group A and earns an easier quarter-final.
Striker Robbie Kruse, man of the match against Oman, said expectations were now sky-high in the Australian camp as the hosts try to lift the Asian Cup for the first time.
“There’s a real confidence around the team at the moment, around the camp,” said Kruse.
“We believe in ourselves and we believe in the squad and in the coaching staff that we can go really far in this tournament.”