WHAT a difference 90 minutes makes.
Coming in to their crunch Confederations Cup clash with Chile, question marks still hung over this Socceroos side’s ability to back up their ambitious rhetoric with a performance of substance.
Leaving the field at Spartak Stadium after a display of genuine quality, they can now look ahead to a more significant meeting with Japan in two months time with absolute confidence.
The four points realistically needed from that fixture and another at home to Thailand to ensure safe passage to next year’s World Cup suddenly look less tricky to secure.
Ryan McGowan and Arturo Vidal had a tremendous tussle.
The opening round defeat against Germany in Russia had ended with a spirited response to adversity. But in the first half of that match Australia were hanging on for dear life.
Cameroon were supposed to be the calibre of side Ange Postecoglou’s men had the beating of.
But, despite spells of dominant possession, the 1-1 draw arguably flattered them.
Both matches had been in some respect true to recent form. Australia stuck to their plan of trying to play through sides, to trust their process. An admirable approach but one that had failed to delivery across an entire game for some time.
Too often the ownership of the ball they so cherish had been in the wrong areas. There are lies, damned lies and possession stats. Success measured by that metric alone is all well and good. But if nothing productive in terms of bothering the scoreboard comes from it, it is a Pyrrhic victory at best.
The debate over the last time Australia truly dominated a game, put together a complete 90 minute performance, is one that has needed a keenly functioning memory in the last year or more.
Ange Postecoglou urges his players forward in Moscow.
No longer. Chile in Moscow was a display of substance of which the team ought to be proud.
Postecoglou, of course, sees things differently. By his reckoning the team were in charge of things in the second period against the Germans and across the match with Cameroon.
His vantage point is different to those of us looking from the outside in. But such an assertion lacks credence for many.
The insistence that growth was happening despite uneven performances in both World Cup qualifying and before and during the Confederations Cup, too, had started to sound empty.
And to suggest there was no difference in the intent of the team in their most recent match to those earlier this month is even more difficult to reconcile with what the eyes saw.
There was undoubtedly greater urgency to the performance against Chile, whether instructed or naturally occurring due to the opposition or demands of the group situation.
Trent Sainsbury keeps a close eye on Eduardo Vargas.
It appeared nothing less than an injection of honest Australian traits of hard work and physicality. For long periods Chile were bullied, forced on the back foot and unable to work their own game plan.
That allied with a willingness across the team to take possession in tight areas, trust in themselves and each other on the ball, was at the heart of the success they had. Australia outworked Chile before they outplayed them.
If there is to be a lesson from this tournament it is that. To be aggressive is not to betray aesthetic ideals. It necessarily augments it if Australia are to consistently turn on such style.