MELBOURNE • Australia coach Ange Postecoglou criticised his team for "wasting" the first half of their 1-1 draw with Japan in Melbourne yesterday which slowed the home side's progress to the World Cup finals in Russia.
Australia were on the back foot early when a mistake in midfield led to Genki Haraguchi's fifth-minute goal, but were lucky the same player gave away a second-half penalty at Docklands stadium.
Captain Mile Jedinak's spot kick salvaged a point and the Socceroos finished strongly in their Group B match but it was of little consolation to their coach and much of the crowd of 48,000.
"Overall, you kind of think we wasted that 45 minutes of the game," a deflated Postecoglou told reporters.
"We were very poor in the first half. A very poor start. We didn't show enough intent in the 45 minutes to score.
"From our perspective, we were just very, very static. We were just a little bit too cute in some of our moves. We should have just taken the game to them."
Japan, battling fatigue and nursing a number of injuries, played on the counter-attack, forcing the Socceroos to take the initiative.
But the hosts, rattled by the early goal, were devoid of ideas heading forward and resorted to speculative long balls into the area before playing with more verve after the break.
"I'm disappointed in the context of where I think we're at as a team," Postecoglou added.
"We're trying to create a scenario where we've got multiple ways of breaking down an opposition. The formation's one thing, more to the point for me is our movement and our intent."
But Postecoglou took solace in the performance of Tomi Juric, who relegated talismanic striker Tim Cahill to the bench and forced the penalty.
"He was OK tonight. He and (forward Apostolos) Giannou were a little bit too stagnant for us in the first half. But he's had an effect on the game. It's good to see he's certainly maturing and progressing well."
Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic was equally frustrated but praised his side's defensive performance as they held on to earn a point.
"My feeling after this game is not regret, maybe some frustration," Halilhodzic said after the match.
"We had a tactical preparation based on our physical condition. The players did a good job, especially defensively."
The Socceroos have played Japan 24 times in full internationals, winning seven games, losing eight and drawing nine times.
Australia next play Thailand in Bangkok and Japan host Saudi Arabia next month.
In the other Group B match yesterday, Iraq's Mohannad Abdul-Raheem put in a Man-of-the-Match performance by scoring all his team's goals in their 4-0 thrashing of Thailand in Teheran.
Thailand ended the night with ten men after Korawit Namwiset was sent off in the 69th minute.
The Thais have also yet to pick up a single point after four games.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE