Head coach Graham Arnold of Australia reacts
Head coach Graham Arnold of Australia reacts

By the numbers: The recurring Asian issue behind Roos shock

"I don't think it was a tactical thing at all," proclaimed Socceroos skipper Mark Milligan after his team's chastening upset loss to Jordan in the opening match of their Asian Cup title defence.

The Aussies went down 1-0 to the world No. 109 despite amassing a whopping 78 per cent possession as well as making 466 more passes than their opponents.

It's a narrative which has become worryingly familiar on tour in Asia, as the Aussies find themselves unable to break down opposition defences, before being caught on the counter.

"You've got to give full credit to Jordan," Arnold said after the game.

"They made it difficult for us, they gave us no space. They had a lot of energy, a lot of fight. It was one of those days, a frustrating day when the ball just didn't seem to bounce."

But was it just one of those days or rather a recurrence of the same issues that have plagued this team on their continental journeys?

The Fox Sports Lab has crunched the numbers on every one of the Socceroos' matches in Asia since Ange Postecoglou masterminded the historic title triumph on home soil four years ago - and signs point to the latter.

Not including the loss to Jordan, Australia has played 12 matches on the continent in that time, winning six, drawing four and losing two. But a closer look at the statistics reveals a trend which Arnold will need to arrest if his team's pursuit of success in the UAE is to prove successful.

The Socceroos average a massive 61.1 per cent of possession across those fixtures, but they have time and time again failed to convert that dominance of the ball into opportunities to punish their opposition. On average, that ascendancy has yielded 14.3 shots per game with just 5.4 of them hitting the target (38 per cent).




Against Jordan, the Aussies produced 19 shots, six of which were on target. Meanwhile their opponents - who had just 26 per cent of the ball - managed 10 shots with six on target.

Many have suggested that the Jordanians shed light on the blueprint to beat the reigning kings of Asia, with the likes of Palestine and Syria waiting in the wings to repeat their heroics.

"We have to look at how we're going to open defences up like this because we're going to come up against the same thing on Friday against Palestine and probably against Syria," Fox Sports expert and former Socceroos captain John Kosmina said after the match.

"Because they'll look at it and say 'look what Jordan did' and do the same."

Australia's midfielder Robbie Kruse walks in dejection
Australia's midfielder Robbie Kruse walks in dejection

However, it can be argued that the same tactics have been used by less fancied oppositions against the Aussies on their travels for a number of years - as the above numbers suggest.

Jordan coach Vital Borkelmans happily explained his master plan to blunt the Socceroos in his post-match press conference.

"I must say thank you to my players, they did everything I asked," he said.

"It was the No.5 (Mark Milligan) and No.8 (Massimo Luongo) and also when No.22 (Jackson Irvine) come inside and No.17 (Mustafa Amini) - they make always the same movements.

"I say to my players when these guys have the ball, make pressure on these guys. When they're coming inside, we have a lot of space behind the back. All my team made a big, big, big tactical performance."

Jordan celebrate their win over the Socceroos
Jordan celebrate their win over the Socceroos

Arnold had spoken confidently about his team's chances of achieving a big result to kick off their campaign - something Borkelmans described as 'very very dangerous.'

Goalkeeper Maty Ryan has since admitted the team was 'a little bit naive' heading into the clash.

In the past, the Aussies have relied on big game players like Mile Jedinak and all-time leading scorer Tim Cahill to produce a moment of magic to unlock deeply deployed Asian defences.

The Socceroos scored 25 goals across those 12 matches on Asian soil - 10 of them were plundered by the duo (40 per cent).

But with the veteran pair now retired, the Aussies continue to search for a new avenue to goal as they attempt to convert their dominance over the ball onto the scoreboard.

Sitting bottom of their group heading into their second match, the Socceroos' margin for error in this group stage has been massively reduced.

They can't afford to fall into the same traps against Palestine on Friday and should that happen they could soon find themselves on an early flight back home.