By PADDY HIGGS
Former Australia international Alan Davidson believes the Socceroos cannot afford to rely on their physicality to win matches in Asia any more.
Football Federation Australia joined the Asian Football Confederation in 2005, but Davidson believes the Socceroos are still adjusting on the pitch and must make improvement a focus ahead of both the 2014 Fifa World Cup and the hosting of the 2015 Asian Cup.
Australia have made a poor start to the final stage of 2014 World Cup qualifying, earning just two points from three games ahead of a crucial trip to Iraq on October 16.
FFA chairman Frank Lowy told reporters at the draw for qualifying for the 2015 Asian Cup in Melbourne on Tuesday that he had "all expectation [Australia would] be in there in Brazil in 2104".
But - having assisted in the draw ceremony - Davidson said the Socceroos' struggles indicated there was still work to be done to adapt to Asian competition.
"It's a learning curve for us still. A lot of the teams are so focused and developing… They're closing the gap," he said
"In the past, we were the stronger players, and more physical
"Asian countries are developing strength and they're becoming bigger and stronger, so it's quite an important tournament for Australia."
But while the Socceroos cannot afford to "take anything for granted" in Asia, Davidson, who spent part of his career in Malaysia with Pahang, was adamant hosting the tournament was nothing but positive.
"This is the best thing that has ever happened [to Australian football]," said Davidson, whose son Jason, 21, could feature in the tournament after having made his Socceroos debut in August.
"I say we need Asia - Asia doesn’t need us. We need to open our arms, open our minds and open our hearts.
"Like they said [at the draw], Asia is one and Australia is part of that. We have to embrace that and we have to try and develop the game, not only for Australia but for Asia as well. It's a win-win for both parties."
Lowy revealed suspending A-League matches during the tournament - held from January 5 to 26 - was a possibility, but the FFA "haven't quite put our timetable on that yet".