The Young Socceroos must rekindle the quality they showed in their 2013 Under-20 World Cup opener if they are any chance of fulfilling their potential, says Kieran Francis
After the brilliance of the Young Socceroos performance in their 1-1 draw with South American champions Colombia, the team was brought down to earth at the 2013 Fifa Under-20 World Cup with an upset loss against El Salvador.
They must now respond in a cut-throat clash against hosts Turkey on Friday [Saturday morning Australian time] if they are to reach the tournament's knockout stages.
Victory against Turkey is likely to gain the Young Socceroos a place in the Round of 16, but anything less will mean they will be sent packing after the group stage - a result that seemed unlikely after the clinical effort against Colombia in their opener.
The Young Socceroos - along with 16-year-old midfielder Daniel de Silva - were the talk of the tournament going into the clash against El Salvador, but a mixture of brilliant tactics from the Central American nation and a poor performance from Paul Okon's men saw Australia deservedly lose.
So what changed from the opening group match and saw the Young Socceroos go from World Cup dark horses to fighting for their tournament lives?
El Salvador coach Mauricio Alfaro deserves immense credit for studying Australia's style of play against Colombia and setting his side up to counter it.
The Young Socceroos looked extremely dangerous on the break against an attacking Colombia side, Alfaro then setting his side to defend deep.
It meant Australia were forced to try and pass through a wall of defenders with their disciplined possession-style game.
El Salvador got their tactical approach spot on against Australia, affording the Young Socceroos little space into which attack.
The trump card of this plan was the double man-marking of the very talented De Silva. The Perth Glory youngster hardly figured at all during the clash, with two opponents shadowing him when Australia was in attack.
Even when El Salvador ventured forward, one of the two would not leave De Silva's side.
With the team's most creative player rendered effectively void, the Young Socceroos were always going to struggle to unlock the door to a compact El Salvador defence.
But Australia also let themselves down in transition, with the ball given away far too easily and some poor defending contributing to both El Salvador strikes.
Now they face a host nation desperate to qualify for the next stage, and the Young Socceroos must use this to their advantage.
Turkey are unlikely to take the same approach as El Salvador did against Australia, and this should enable more opportunities to attack on the break.
It should also allow more space for De Silva to get on the ball and dictate the contest.
The opportunity is still there for this Australian youth side to make their mark on the world stage.
It is time to find out if the performance against Colombia was just a once-off or whether the journey in Turkey will continue.