The Socceroos insist they are confident of implementing a plan aimed at stifling and frustrating France in their opening World Cup match on Saturday night.
The Aussies have landed safely in Kazan, their home base and site of their World Cup opener against one of the tournament favourites in Russia.
Forward Robbie Kruse is adamant the penny will drop soon for the Socceroos, who have been guilty of two slow starts in their pre-World Cup friendlies.
A third would spell disaster given the quality of a France line-up boasting an ominous array of attacking talent including Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, Olivier Giroud and Paul Pogba – to name but a few.
Against the Czech Republic last week, Australia was off the pace early before finding their rhythm, romping to a 4-0 success.
They were similarly disjointed in Budapest on Saturday night, but this time the fluency never really arrived.
Daniel Arzani’s star intervention helped the Socceroos eke out a 2-1 result at the Groupama Arena but there was no hiding the below-par performance.
Kruse, a veteran of 64 international caps but set to play at his first World Cup, said there needed to be a renewed focus on starting sharply.
“We need to stay compact especially at the beginning,” he said.
“If you can grind out the first 20 or 30 and keep it at 0-0, they’re going to get a bit more angry and frustrated.
“We’ve been working the last three weeks on our defensive discipline and closing passing lanes and closing spaces.
“I think we’re doing that really well. We’re restricting teams to long balls and of course they’re going to get half chances but for the most part we’re defending really well.”
France was also in action on Saturday, held to a 1-1 draw with the USA in Lyon.
Jackson Irvine, who helped carve out Australia’s injury-time winner with his hard running, admitted Australia had an off night but said at least the Socceroos found a way to win.
“I just think it’s one of those days. Sometimes two teams playing in a similar way maybe cancel each other out,” he said.
“Football-wise, maybe the main thing to take from that is the way you can take the positive winning mentality.
“If you can win when you’re not playing your best, it bodes well for when you do get the football right.”
Kruse was guilty of two misses in the first half and could yet find his starting place under pressure from Arzani.
The 29-year-old said he felt ready to fire.
“As long as I’m getting into those positions, hopefully I can get chances within a game and hopefully they can start coming off,” he said.
The Aussies are basing themselves at the Trudovye Rezervy Stadium, home to Russian ice hockey champions Ak Bars Kazan, otherwise known as the Snow Leopards.
Football Federation Australia also successfully petitioned FIFA to stay at the facility, which was not one of the organising committee’s recommended training bases.
They hope the live-in venue, complete with elite medical and recovery facilities, can be an advantage.
While France are basing themselves an hour northwest of Moscow and will need to travel for the opening match on June 16, the Socceroos will need to take only a 15-minute bus trip across town.
That wasn’t planned; Australia had locked in Kazan as a home away from home well before the World Cup draw in December.
As one of three teams – as well as Colombia and Japan – to base themselves in the Volga River port city, the Socceroos hope for a degree of home support in the crowd on match day.
That support was evident on Sunday, when dancers performed a traditional Tatarstan welcome.
They also served up ‘chak-chak’ – a fried honey cake with almonds traditional to the region – which was well received by those game enough to try.
An open training session for fans on Monday afternoon is expected to draw thousands – which could be the moment that World Cup fever hits the Socceroos.
Australia round out their group stage commitments with matches against Denmark on June 21 in nearby Samara and Peru on June 26 in Sochi’s Fisht Olympic Stadium.