World Cup playoff: How Australia can beat Syria with four defenders at the back


The Socceroos tactician seems set in his ways but could a couple of surprise selections open up a shock formation switch?

Australian coach Ange Postecoglou has set out the team with three defenders at the back since November’s shock 2-2 draw against Thailand in Bangkok.

The widely-criticised formation has only yielded three wins in nine games, and has seen the team score 12 goals but also concede 15.

Critics have circled Postecoglou since the Socceroos’ failure to automatically qualify for Russia, but has the coach given himself an out clause from the controversial tactic with his squad selection for the playoffs against Syria?

Josh Risdon is only really suited to right-back in a four-man defence, while forward Nikita Rukavytsya thrives in wide attacking areas, not playing as a wing-back.

The above additions could mean the coach is planning an unlikely formation change – whether to start the game or a mid-match adjustment.

If the unthinkable happens and Ange changes his mind, this is Australia’s strongest line-up with four defenders at the back: 

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GK: Mathew Ryan – The long-term Australian No.1 picks himself.
LB: Aziz Behich – Regularly playing for Bursaspor and more suited to a left-back role than wing-back.
CB: Trent Sainsbury – The nation’s best centre-half.
CB: Bailey Wright – Is a close call with Milos Degenek but just shades it with because of his leadership.
RB: Josh Risdon – A good defender who can threaten going forward with his quality crossing
CM: Mark Milligan – Can sit a little deeper than Mooy and allow the Huddersfield man to press forward.
CM: Aaron Mooy – Will be given a licence to dictate play.
LW: Robbie Kruse – Deserves to play on a wing after his hot goalscoring form for VfL Bochum.
AM: Tom Rogic – Can be allowed to roam free in his favoured no.10 role.
RW: Mathew Leckie – Scoring for fun in the Bundesliga and should thrive playing further forward.
ST: Tomi Juric – Is also scoring for his club side and is a strong focal point.

Australia will play the first leg against Syria in Malacca, Malaysia on October 5, before hosting the home leg at ANZ Stadium five days later.

The winner of the tie will face a two-leg playoff against fourth-place in CONCACAF for a spot in Russia.



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