Iraq 3 - Australia 1

Organised, united, spirited, disciplined, composed, classly, on the same wave-length and playing to a plan. It's everything you would want from a football team. That was Iraq.

Unstructured, undisciplined, under-prepared, strung-out, clueless, one-dimensional, catastrophic. Welcome to the Socceroos, version 2007.

This has been a learning experience like few before, for everyone - players, fans, media, manager, support staff and the governing body.

So much for the suppossed X factor that Steve Waugh saw after spending a few days in camp a couple of weeks back.

So much for the favouritism tag.

So much for waltzing through the group stage.

So much for the prevailing attitude that anything but the final would amount to failure.

We've become the champions of talk. Pity we haven't yet been able to get into a walk. As in life, respect and humility should be the guiding principles.

This is the wake up call Australia football needed, before we got too far ahead of ourselves.

Truth is that had it not been for the vision of Frank Lowy and his ability to convince Guus Hiddink to manage our German World Cup campaign, we wouldn't have made it to the finals for the first time in 32 years. We'd still be waiting. He pulled all the right moves, on the field and off it, at the right time.

Truth is that had it not been for Hiddink, we wouldn't have dished up the quality of football we witnessed this time last year, let alone got anywhere near the top 16 teams in the world.

It's this reason why Lowy has been reluctant to back Arnold as Hiddink's long-term successor, despite all the pressure that has been heaped on him here to do so.

It's because ultimately he knows Arnold hasn't the tools to take us to the World Cup, never mind doing something when we're there.

Australia is still a relative baby in world football terms and the sooner we all realise it, the better off we'll be. Time to take stock and accept we need to keep learning.

No doubt Australia has the players and talent to do the job on the world stage, but we still need to be nutured and taught, not pampered and spoilt into believing we know it all.

Here the Iraqi's gave the ultimate tuition thanks to some wonderful football from the likes of Nashat Akram, Younis Mahmoud and Hawar Mulla Mohammed.

Jorvan Vieira had his skilful unit well organised, disciplined and calculated, everything the Socceroos weren't. Akram was the craftsmen, the front two the executioners.

While the Roos performance was slightly better than Sunday night, there were still too many signs that Arnold had lost control.

Moving the ball around far too slowly, leaving too much room between the three lines, never getting in touch with each other, resorting to the aerial ball far too often, allowing our frustrations to boil-over, looking for excuses, taking short-cuts, tacking out frustraions on the opposition and the officials, making poor decisions in defence and on the ball; they were all symptoms of a team/camp which hasn't looked happy.

In my most recent Asian Cup post, after the Oman game, I signed off by saying that Australia still had a hope if the players could prove they wanted to be there and the manager started pulling the right punches. Neither did the job on this night and the most short-changed people are those that have invested their time and money to follow the team through Asia. Arnold's post-match comments to Fox Sport's Murray Shaw that "some players don't want to be here" drew a perplexed yet defiant response from skipper Mark Viduka. Boy will the next couple of days be interesting. But for Mile Sterjovski, Arnold stuck with his 'big guns', perhaps reasoning that they deserved a chance to atone for their Oman performance. No doubt they let him down. Perhaps the most disappointing of the lot was "golden boy" Lucas Neill, petulant throughout. After speaking for a week about the need for his team to keep the ball, his first use of it was a wasteful long ball in search of his skipper. It didn't get any better from there, his work often ponderous, ending up in him getting two cards. Apart from Emerton and Wilkshire, few could hold their heads up high in this game. Schwarzer, often the hero, proved, as he did at the World Cup, that he is still shaky in dealing with crosses. The evidence has been there throughout that the players have been running this campaign. It is a fine balance between being a friend and letting the players have too much of a say.

The miracle in the wash-up of all this is that all is not lost. Australia is still a chance of getting out of the group. A win over Thailand on Monday, coupled with an Iraqi win or draw against Oman will ensure passage to final eight, but on the evidence of this display, you wouldn't bet on it.

Arnold will need to lay down the law, put friendships aside, and the senior players will need to accept it. We shall see.

written by Tony Tannous on The Roundball Analyst