PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (AP) — Back-to-back defeats have done nothing to dent the confidence of an Australia squad that arrived at the World Cup as the lowest-ranked team and with pundits predicting a complete wipe out.
The Socceroos are out of contention already, ahead of their last group game against 2010 champion Spain, but the gutsy manner of their defeats to the Netherlands and Chile suggests there's enough talent in the inexperienced squad to expect brighter outcomes in future.
Netherlands thrashed Spain 5-1 in its opening match and deployed the same formation against Australia, but had to ensure some nervous moments before coming back to win 3-2.
Before the tournament, coach Ange Postecoglou stressed the need for his Australia squad to play exciting, attacking football and lay the foundation for a new generation of players. So far, so good.
"We dominated for much of the game," midfielder Matt McKay said of Wednesday's encounter with the Dutch. "Who would have thought that going into the game other than ourselves? I reckon that a lot of Aussies will be very proud about the way we went about it. "
The average age of the squad going into the tournament was 25. Among the youngsters, there is a scattering of veterans from Australia's 2006 World Cup appearance, where the team made it into the knockout rounds — losing to eventual champion Italy after a contentious late penalty — thanks in large part of a coterie of players with experience in top-flight English football.
Chief among them is Tim Cahill, who has scored in each of the games so far in Brazil, but who will miss out against Spain because he has picked up two yellow cards. His goals, including a stunning left-foot volley against the Netherlands that is a contender for the strike of the tournament, inspired a fight back in each match.