MELBOURNE (AFP) – While Tim Cahill once again bailed out Australia after an early scare in Friday’s 4-1 Asian Cup victory over Kuwait, coach Ange Postecoglou’s decision to start Massimo Luongo paid rich dividends.
Luongo set up Cahill’s equaliser before heading a brilliant second for the tournament hosts just before half-time in their Group A opener in Melbourne, vindicating his inclusion ahead of hometown hero Mark Bresciano with a man-of-the-match display. “Massimo is impressive,” said Postecoglou after the 22-year-old capped a livewire display with his first senior international goal.
“He’s one of the guys we’ve blooded in the last few months. He’s a threat, whether it’s creating or scoring goals.”
Luongo grew into the match after a nervy start and the Swindon Town midfielder drew plaudits from Cahill, so often Australia’s go-to guy.
“He was amazing,” said the former Everton forward. “He wanted the ball, he was brave — and that’s when you find out about players. To assist and score a goal, that’s the making of a good player.”
Australia, who managed just one victory in 11 matches last year, laid down a marker for the tournament before games against Oman and South Korea. Postecoglou said he was satisfied his Socceroos were on course to “capture some hearts and minds” across the country.
“There wouldn’t be a coach in the world that wouldn’t understand if the results aren’t there, they’re going to get criticised,” he said.
“It doesn’t affect me. It’s not about vindication. There was a real directive to regenerate the team and change the way we play.”
With Australia’s golden generation largely dismantled, Postecoglou insisted: “While I’m in the job, as long as it lasts, we’re going to stick to that (regeneration).” The Australia side moved to Sydney on Saturday to prepare for Tuesday’s clash against Oman, and Luongo looks set to play a key role as the home side bid to win the Asian Cup for the first time.