Socceroos seeking improvement before World Cup

Midfield workhorse Jackson Irvine admits the Socceroos have “a lot to improve on” if they are to make an impression at this year’s World Cup.

The experienced Irvine was one of Australia’s better performers in Thursday night’s lacklustre 1-0 win over New Zealand at Suncorp Stadium.

If it wasn’t for a cracking Awer Mabil first-half goal, the party to celebrate 100 years of the Socceroos would have been a complete fizzer.

As it was, Australia’s performance against a nation ranked 103rd in the world was barely adequate, with the Kiwis dominating early and outmuscling the Socceroos.

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold conceded post-match Australia failed to physically match the visitors in a contest Irvine described as “far from a friendly”.

“Credit to New Zealand as well, they played really well last night and put us under a lot of pressure,” Irvine said ahead of game two of the series on Sunday.

“I enjoy that aspect of the game and they definitely brought it to us (on Thursday night), so you know you’ve got to go out there and match it.

“There’s a lot to improve on – it was far from perfect.”

Irvine said the consolation was sending “everyone home with a good result”.

Mabil dedicated his first Socceroos goal on Australian soil to a family friend who recently passed away.

“It’s a dream goal, to be honest,” the Spain-based winger said.

Both Irvine and Mabil are unlikely to travel to New Zealand for Sunday’s match, with almost all of Thursday night’s starting team having been told they aren’t making the trip, with Arnold keen to give a host of fringe players an opportunity.

However, United States-based defender Milos Degenek, who played the entire 90 minutes on Thursday night, will fly to Auckland, with there now being doubts England-based centre-back Bailey Wright – who delayed his trip to Australia to attend the birth of his daughter – will make the long journey for the final games of the series.

“I’m looking forward to going over … and hopefully we win as well,” Degenek said.

“There’s a bit on the line for the World Cup. Everyone’s here to stake their (selection) claim.

“There’s a lot of us who are decent, who are really good players, and it’s out of our hands.

“All we can do is be fit, healthy and playing, and leave it up to coach to decide.”

Degenek said he was enjoying his football again after his move this year to Major League Soccer outfit Columbus Crew.

“I’ve developed a fair bit and I feel like the player that I was two or three years ago when I played my best football so I’m really happy,” he said.

Originally published as Midfielder says Socceroos must lift after ‘far from perfect’ effort against NZ