What we learned from Australia 0-3 Spain: Ange gets Taggart gamble wrong

Opting to start the inexperienced striker proved to be a mistake, while there was no coming back from defensive lapses without suspended talisman Tim Cahill
Ange gets Taggart gamble wrong

The coach opted for the Newcastle Jets youngster in place of Tim Cahill and the 21-year-old struggled to make an impression, unable to compete with Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique in the air and not afforded any opportunities to get in behind the Spain defence. He also failed to press the opposition centre-backs effectively, allowing a team who looked hapless against the Netherlands and Chile to settle into their natural game.

Postecoglou realised too late he should have moved Mathew Leckie to the middle and gone for Ben Halloran on the right from the start, belatedly making that change at half-time. Fortuna Dusseldorf man Halloran had come on there in the previous two games and done well, while Taggart only received a brief cameo against the Netherlands. That selection error handed the impetus to Spain and saw Australia fail to capitalise on their positive start to the game.

Socceroos will badly miss Cahill and Bresciano

We knew it already but the loss in Curitiba served to act as a reminder of the impending departure of two elite players and the impact it will have on the Socceroos. Without Tim Cahill's physicality and aerial presence, both as a goal-scoring threat and an out-ball option, Australia never looked like scoring. Likely to play on until at least the Asian Cup, Cahill will have to call it quits one day though and Postecoglou needs other routes to goal.

Although the game was gone by the time he came on, Mark Bresciano demonstrated his talent for keeping the ball in tight areas and picking out the right pass despite being under pressure. The 34-year-old could announce his retirement soon after the tournament and Australia have no-one capable of matching his skill set, with would-be playmakers James Troisi and Tom Rogic to name just two still a long way off.

David Villa makes himself at home

The Melbourne City-bound striker received a gift of a goal in the first half, with the Socceroos' defence conspicuous through its absence for Spain's opener. Tearful as he made his way off the field in a Spain shirt for the final time, the former Valencia, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid man should get used to enjoying the charity of Australian defenders during his guest stint in the A-League next season.

Makeshift defence a tika-taka tonic for Torres

While Jason Davidson allowed Andres Iniesta to get away from him and set up Villa's goal, it was Ryan McGowan out of position for the second. The man playing at right-back betrayed his centre-back's instinct by coming into the middle and leaving Fernando Torres free at the top of the box to score past Mat Ryan. Chelsea must be wishing their 50 million-pound flop had been offered freebies like that more often during his underwhelming time at Stamford Bridge.

Did hope give way to hype?

With Spain humiliated by the Netherlands and well beaten at the hands of Chile, the previously unstoppable Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012 champions appeared to be falling apart. Iker Casillas was dropped and Xavi Hernandez benched again, while there were reports of a training ground row between Del Bosque and Cesc Fabregas. With nothing to play for and little pride to be salvaged for the deposed holders, some optimistic observers were claiming Australia had a chance of winning this game.

Did the Socceroos, encouraged by Postecoglou to be positive and back themselves against the best, start to believe their own hype? If so, they received a rude awakening in Curitiba, a timely reminder that there's a long way to go yet before Australia become even anything approaching a genuine force in international football.