Five things we learned from the Australia’s 1-0 win over New Zealand

The Socceroos may have downed New Zealand 1-0 at Suncorp Stadium overnight, but another laboured display suggests there’s plenty of work to be done before the World Cup.

Awer Mabil’s superb first-half strike separated the two sides on a cool night in Brisbane, with the All Whites clearly not here just to make up the numbers as they turned in a gritty performance.

Is the glass half-full or half-empty on the back of that Socceroos win? Here are five things we learned from the action overnight.

1. Mat Ryan is under no real danger as Australia’s No. 1

Not that there was any real doubt, but the sight of Mat Ryan donning the captain’s armband once again was another reminder of the goalkeeping pecking order.

Mitch Langerak may have reversed his decision to retire from the national team, but Ryan is the long-term incumbent and hardly put a foot wrong against the Kiwis. Langerak has been in the form of his life for Nagoya Grampus, but Ryan is back playing at a high level for FC Copenhagen and recently kept a clean sheet in the UEFA Champions League against Sevilla.

Langerak might feature at Eden Park, but there’s no way Ryan isn’t Australia’s No. 1.

2. Question marks remain over the Socceroos’ defence

Does Graham Arnold parachute Harry Souttar into his starting side if the Stoke City big man makes a last-ditch recovery from his ACL injury? It’s a question worth pondering after Australia’s back four turned in another shaky display.

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The experienced Aziz Behich has done enough to nail down the left-back position, but questions remain over the rest of the defence. Neither Trent Sainsbury nor Milos Degenek looked entirely comfortable against New Zealand’s bruising front line of Chris Wood and Andre De Jong, but of equal concern was what was happening on the right.

Fran Karacic reads the game well enough, but several times he was knocked off the ball by the physical Kiwis, and it’s not like he’s blessed with blistering pace. And that’s a problem against Kylian Mbappe and co.

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

3. Australia’s midfield won’t worry our World Cup opponents

It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Aussies, with Awer Mabil’s enterprising display capped off by a magnificent goal. But it’s hard to see how a midfield comprising the likes of Aaron Mooy, Jackson Irvine and Ajdin Hrustic strikes fear into the hearts of our Group D opponents.

Irvine is Australia’s most willing midfield combatant but tends to give the ball away cheaply, while his all-action style makes him a target for referees. Mooy remains composed on the ball but plays the game at a plodding pace and still turns the ball backwards with alarming regularity, while Hrustic had the chance to stamp his authority on the game in Brisbane – and failed.

Irvine’s physical presence makes him a likely starter in Qatar, but this is a team that looks confused about who its playmaker is supposed to be.

4. Tom Rogic may have left his run too late

Speaking of playmakers, where in the world is Tom Rogic? The former Celtic man only recently pitched up in the Championship at West Bromwich Albion, but after missing the World Cup playoffs against the United Arab Emirates and Peru for “personal reasons”, Australia’s long-time No. 10 may have also missed the flight to Qatar.

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That poses another headache for Arnie, because Rogic is undoubtedly Australia’s most creative player. And on a night in which Adam Taggart barely touched the ball, that’s something Australia desperately needs.

The lack of cutting edge in attack is another major problem – besides Mabil, it was actually Mat Leckie who finally provided some attacking thrust when he came off the bench – but Rogic’s strange European summer may mean he’s now surplus to requirements.

5. Cheaper tickets are what draws fans through the gates

Credit to Football Australia, who did a decent job of commemorating the centenary of the first clash between Australia and New Zealand back in 1922. The team of the century was a smart idea, the cap ceremony at half-time was a nice touch and it was great to see some new merch on sale.

But what gets fans through the gates, as was abundantly clear last night, are appropriately priced tickets. Most of the cheap seats were filled; many of the expensive ones were not.

And having squandered so much momentum since winning the Asian Cup in 2015, the game’s administrators have plenty of work to do to rebuild the fan base – as the 25,000-strong crowd in Brisbane demonstrated overnight.

Game 2 of the series in Auckland kicks off at 2pm (AEST) on Sunday.

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