MELBOURNE - A confidence-sapping loss to Qatar is unlikely to have been in Ange Postecoglou's plans three months from hosting the Asian Cup but the Socceroos coach cannot be blamed for blooding new players, according to former Australia striker John Aloisi.
The 1-0 loss to 96th-ranked Qatar in Doha on Tuesday, coming off a scoreless draw against United Arab Emirates days before, has triggered alarm bells Down Under.
Postecoglou, who enjoyed an extended honeymoon period despite Australia losing all three games at the World Cup, has been in the firing line for shaking up his side in the final warm-ups before the continental showpiece.
The Socceroos coach has taken full responsibility for the disappointing performances, saying they were a direct consequence of his fiddling at the selection table, but Aloisi said the 49-year-old knew exactly what he was doing.
"I don't think it's as bad as everyone makes it out to be," Aloisi told Reuters in an interview.
"We lost which is not good, because you want to win all your games and especially against opposition that we should be beating.
"There are things that of course Ange would want to improve on and Ange would be unhappy that we lost but it's still a friendly game and he has tried a lot of different players and a lot of partnerships.
"I'm sure that come Asian Cup time they'll be ready. That's when we can really judge. "I know a lot of people are getting nervous but he's not getting nervous.
"I think Ange knows who he can really rely on and who his starting 11 will be. I think that you still have to give these other players a chance and also for him to see where they're at."
If Postecoglou had hoped to unearth new avenues to goal, he may have been frustrated with his team's disjointed attack during their Middle Eastern tour.
A number of chances went begging against Qatar and players appeared all too eager to leave the job of finding the back of the net to the country's all-time top goal-scorer, Tim Cahill.
Australia have scored 11 goals from 11 matches under Postecoglou, with Cahill contributing seven of them.
"We're relying on Timmy Cahill too much to score the goals," said Aloisi.
"It's not only that, though, it's more that players aren't putting themselves into more positions to score.
"I think the ones in the front three should all be looking to get in front of things. If a cross is coming in from the right the left winger should be getting himself into the box and in a position that he can score.
"Sometimes I don't see that. I see them relying on Timmy to always be the one who gets on the end of it. That at the moment is my biggest (issue) with them.
"Ostensibly the last two games, we haven't been too bad but no-one's really looked like scoring."
Postecoglou has tried to manufacture firepower through Bayer Leverkusen forward Robbie Kruse, who missed the World Cup because of a serious knee injury, rookie Nigeria-born striker Bernie Ibini-Isei and James Troisi.
With Australia facing Asian Cup champions Japan in their final warmup next month, Aloisi suggested Postecoglou might want to go back to the future and bring Japan-based striker Josh Kennedy back into the fold.
A team mate of Aloisi's at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the lanky 32-year-old target man has struggled with injuries and missed out on the World Cup squad for Brazil.
He has made a number of timely cameos in recent years, however, not least his match-winning headed goal against Iraq in Sydney last year which booked Australia's ticket to Brazil.
"Josh Kennedy should definitely be involved," Aloisi said.
"He's proven, especially against Asian opposition, they struggle to deal with him.
"If his injuries are all good and he's fit to go that would be someone that I would really consider because he's got goals, we know that."