Dutchman Bert van Marwijk’s revamped Australian team is drawing comparisons with the playing style of top Spanish side Atletico Madrid.
van Marwijk, appointed just before the World Cup after Ange Postecoglou walked out on the job, has made the Socceroos less-attacking minded and more compact and defensively-focused in the past three months. Postecoglou’s mantra was attack, attack, attack, favouring a three-man backline and a possession-based brand of football.
But van Marwijk, who’s biggest success came with leading his homeland to the 2010 World Cup final, has overhauled the team with a more counter-attacking philosophy and his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation. He believes that style is more likely to work against the likes of France and Denmark, than an all-out attack Postecoglou’s charges used against the likes of Syria, Thailand and Honduras last year.
Australian goalkeeper Mathew Ryan revealed this week that van Marwijk was talking about Atletico in preparation for the World Cup. Los Colchoneros finished second last season in La Liga and have had great success with the ability to hit opponents on the break in the past few years.
Socceroo midfielder Jackson Irvine believes the connection between the two playing styles of Australia and Diego Simeone is strong.
“Anyone who’s watched Atletico in the past years can see how structured and disciplined they are in their shape, it doesn’t really change against their opposition,” Irvine said.
“It’s the way it’s ingrained in them, to be able to press and be organised in that way. I think that’s the main thing he’s tried to get into us as a squad, if you get it right then it means you don’t have to adapt to the opposition. You can do it against any structure and shape. It’s all about distances, communication and making sure you close lines. Atletico are one of the best in the world at it, it’s tough to get right.
“We think we’ve got a very close structure in place that’s going to be capable of getting results in this tournament. We’re fortunate in our squad to have a number of players that have different qualities in the attacking third and all over the pitch. We can use our own individual strengths and myself, maybe there are parts of my game that are different. Maybe my energy and running in-behind offers something different. You have to use your own individual qualities to try and persuade the manager to get out there on the pitch and affect the game.”
Irvine is at his first World Cup, five years after debuting for Australia against Canada at Craven Cottage. Now playing for Hull City, the 25-year-old is likely to come off the bench against Les Bleus on Saturday in their Group C World Cup opener.
Little is expected of the Socceroos, outside of Australia itself, but Irvine says that doesn’t worry himself or his teammates.
“We saw it last year at the Confederations Cup after the Brazil game, we showed no fear against these top nations and we came out fighting against the best teams,” he said.
“We’re going to have to show that again on Saturday. All these things that happened with other teams like press conferences, we don’t really pay much attention to that.
“We’re focused on ourselves and as I said, we’re planning to play in a way where the opposition, it’s not going to matter the way they play and the way they approach it because we’re going to have our structures and it’s more important about what we do here.”