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Can the A-League match it with Asia’s best?

Can our participating A-League teams turn their Asian Champions league campaign around after all three recorded first round defeats?

Central Coast Mariners, Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne Victory all got taught a footballing lesson in the first match of the group stages.

Perhaps the crazy A-League schedule combined with an Asian Champions League full of long flights is too much for our Australian teams to handle.

The first group stage game was a clear indication that even our strongest Aussie teams were unprepared for the tough first round against strong opponents.

That was the story for Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne Victory who were first to find the net in their opening games yet burned out in the second half.

The Victory arguably played their best ever half in the clubs history going up 2-0 against last years former Asian champions Guangzhou FC. The accomplishment was short lived after Victory were outplayed and crumbled under the pressure. The same situation occurred for the Western Sydney Wanderers who were up 1-0 before losing to Ulsan Hyundai 3-1.

“The small details are even more important the higher you go and that’s the harsh reality we got tonight.”said Wanderers Coach Tony Popovic.

Has this same pattern brushed off onto our Socceroos who were also up 3-0 against Ecuador last week and then crumbled to a 4-3 defeat?

What I do know is that our A-League teams need someone who can stand up when momentum and morale is down and pick their team back up. Just like Italian marquee man Alessandro Diamanti did standing out as the game changer fir Guangzhou against Melbourne Victory.

So what has to change in order for our Aussies to get a win in the second round?

Perhaps Melbourne Victory were out of legs in that gruelling second half. The long hours travelling overseas and playing matches in such short time takes its toll on the players. It showed in the derby where Melbourne Heart demolished Victory 4-0 in a game where the Victory players looked exhausted and deflated from the previous week.

“Putting yourself up against different opposition, you learn different lessons. Albeit it’s difficult on the body and mind, the players are getting great experience from that and great lessons. I’m looking forward to it.”said Victory Coach Kevin Muscat.

I believe that as football grows in Australia, so will the standard of football which includes the facilities and coaches at training. This combination is vital for A-League teams who can’t afford simple ‘match costing’ mistakes against some of the richest and most successful clubs in Asia.

Whether they will can get it right before the next round is another chapter we will have to wait for….

By Ari Charilaou

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