Brave Australia out but on the right track

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One senses Australia came to Russia looking for acceptance, an invitation into the club of top footballing nations, playing the game 'the right way'.

Coach Ange Postecoglou could not have stressed the evolution in the Socceroos' style enough when in Russia. Every news conference consisted of him extolling the virtues of their new, more sophisticated methods, a departure from the physical, up-and-at-'em approach utilised by previous regimes.

Alas, the message was not getting through. Asked about Australia's perceived route-one approach by a Chilean journalist prior to their clash in Moscow, Postecoglou snapped sarcastically: "We're just going to bombard them with long balls mate."

The inquisitor clearly hadn't done his homework ahead of a game the Socceroos needed to win by two goals to progress out of a group also containing world champions Germany and into the Confederations Cup semi-finals.

Are this Australia side physical? Yes, both Massimo Luongo and the evergreen Tim Cahill - celebrating his 100th appearance in the green and gold - could have seen greater sanction than bookings for wild first-half challenges.

But there is a subtlety to this Australia team, a desire to pass and move, and a steadfast determination not to stray from Postecoglou's principles. So much so, it almost proved their undoing on a couple of occasions when trying to play out from the back.

But stick to it they did, and it took them so very close.

A frantic opening half was notable for fine saves from Maty Ryan to deny Arturo Vidal while the Video Assistant Referee was used to rightly rule Mark Milligan had got the ball and not Alexis Sanchez when the Arsenal man burst through.

But the game, and the dynamic in Group B, changed after 42 minutes. Claudio Bravo's pass was miscontrolled by Eduardo Vargas, allowing Robbie Kruse to seize possession. Trent Sainsbury couldn't get a shot away but Kruse's mis-hit follow-up fell nicely for James Troisi to deftly chip over the advancing Bravo from six yards.

With 37-year-old Cahill bossing the midfield - bullying Juventus star Vidal into submission - the dream was alive. One more and Australia were through.

It should have arrived in first-half injury-time, Cahill cushioning a header into the path of Sainsbury only for him to lash a close-range volley over the bar.

There was little response from Chile, Juan Antonio Pizzi's men strangely subdued and seemingly shellshocked.

Cahill's legs could not last, however, the former Everton man having to give way after 56 minutes. It gave Chile the lift they required and the equaliser was not long in coming.

The persistent Vargas won a loose ball in the area and it fell nicely for substitute Martin Rodriguez to poke beyond Ryan.

Australia were wobbling and Vargas ought to have clinched their progress three minutes later, inexplicably heading wide of an open goal after Sanchez escaped down the left.

Mathew Leckie missed a sitter at the other end, and it proved Australia's last chance as Chile squeezed through to a semi-final with Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo. 

Postecoglou said beforehand he wanted his side to emulate Chile and emerge from being one of the smaller teams in their confederation to a global powerhouse.

There is still much work to do and, ultimately, his efforts may be hampered by a lack of quality players - only two of Australia's starting XI play for a team in Europe's top five leagues.

But Postecoglou's methods appear sound. On this evidence, his team are on the right track - the warm embrace from Pizzi at the final whistle said it all. An invitation should be in the post.