St Polten: Australia's hopes of a successful World Cup campaign became a lot more realistic on Friday after inflicting a record 4-0 defeat of the Czech Republic in Austria.
The loss was the Czech Republic's biggest defeat since their formation in 1994.
A brace from Mat Leckie, a fine strike by Andrew Nabbout and an own goal sealed the Socceroos' first win over a UEFA nation on European soil in almost eight years, but it was the impressive nature of the performance that mattered most for new coach Bert van Marwijk.
It was not just that they displayed much of what he wanted to see, but that it was what the onlooking France, Peru and Denmark would have least wanted to see.
The work done in 11 days intensive training is already beginning to bear fruit for van Marwijk's side. They were more compact in defence, structurally disciplined and relentless in their zonal marking.
After years playing an aggressive, possession-based attack under Ange Postecoglou, this Socceroos team were clinical on the counter.
They are far from the finished product but, in their first appearance since forming camp in Turkey, Australia look like being on the right path towards the kind of football least desired by their Group C opponents.
The Socceroos began with an air of indecision, one brought upon by the natural tension between battling instinct with instruction. While they were more disciplined, astute and aware of their roles in the new defensive structure, their unfamiliarity exposed holes in their backline.
The Czechs breached that just five minutes into the game when striker Jan Kopic was put through into the box. A brave block by captain Trent Sainsbury denied the Viktoria Plzen man a goal.
Vulnerability in transition plagued Australia's early play as a slow start by Mark Milligan playing at left centre-back was targeted by the Czechs. Down his side of defence, Kopic was again played straight on goal, bringing an an impressive save from Mat Ryan.
That snapped the Socceroos into gear, and they began to find their fluency in possession and fortitude in defence. Marshalling the backline, Ryan and Sainsbury barked orders that echoed around the near-empty arena. Shouts of "tempo", "quick passes", "shape" and "press" reverberated and, most importantly, were adhered to.
After more encouraging spells with the ball and more threatening raids down the flank and in transition, Australia began to turn the screws.
They hit the lead just past the half-hour mark, when a Josh Risdon cross to the far post was headed back across goal to for an unmarked Leckie to slot home.
They came close to doubling their tally before the break when Aaron Mooy's long-range shot brought an unconvincing save from Czech goalkeeper Tomas Koubek.
There was nothing Koubek could do eight minutes after the break when Nabbout bore down on goal.
The Urawa Reds striker's tantalising run put his marker in two minds, and Nabbout struck a powerful right foot drive past Koubek and inside the far post.
Evidently, it was all van Marwijk needed to see of Nabbout, who was substituted for Jamie Maclaren shortly after.
From then, Australia went into the game management mode that confidence brings. While becoming far more comfortable in their defensive shape, they emerged dangerous in their offensive press and on the break they made their greatest statement of intent.
A through ball from Mooy to Leckie put the Hertha Berlin winger into space. Leckie homed in on goal, cut inside and unleashed a powerful effort to make it 3-0 in the 72nd minute.
Their fourth had a slice of luck, but it was no less than they deserved. Substitute Milos Degenek's cross from the right was deflected into the goal by Czech defender Jakub Jugas 10 minutes from time.
Van Marwijk gave a Socceroos debut to the youngest member in camp, Daniel Arzani, with six minutes remaining.
Dominic Bossi is a football reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.
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