Australian Four Four Two - - ROOS’ ROCKY ROAD -

It seems strange now to think Aaron Mooy couldn’t make the Socceroo squad for the Asian Cup in 2015, but that is how dra­matic his sub­se­quent rise has been. He has be­come well es­tab­lished as the most im­por­tant player in the Aus­tralian set-up, which made now de­parted Socceroo coach Ange Postecoglou’s de­ci­sion to start him from the bench in the sec­ond leg of the play­off game against Syria hard to fathom. Postecoglou would have had all good in­ten­tions about sav­ing Mooy for a crit­i­cal role later in the game, but an early away goal to Syria that put them up 2-1 on ag­gre­gate sud­denly made the de­ci­sion to go with­out Mooy look way be­yond just risky. Then de­fender Brad Smith got in­jured and rather than make a like-for-like re­place­ment Postecoglou rushed Mooy on and moved the pieces around to fit him in to his nor­mal po­si­tion. The Soc­ceroos went on to win the game and ad­vance 3-2 on ag­gre­gate, with Mooy be­ing typ­i­cally in­flu­en­tial. It was bad luck for Smith, but as timely a re­place­ment op­por­tu­nity as you can get and Postecoglou im­me­di­ately recog­nised that. Only a silly coach would have ig­nored it just to try to back his orig­i­nal de­ci­sion.

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