Graham Arnold warned his Australia team that they must be better despite launching their Asian Cup title charge with an ultimately comfortable 2-0 win over India on Saturday.
In front of a vocal pro-Indian crowd of 36,253 at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Doha, Australia made hard work of the first half, squandering a few decent chances while the underdogs defended raggedly and eyed opportunities on the break.
Jackson Irvine opened the scoring just after the restart, the moustachioed midfielder driving home from 10 yards after India goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu came for a cross only to flap it back into the danger zone.
And 2015 Asian champions Australia were in full control from then on, as Indian legs tired and Arnold took advantage of the depth in his squad.
Jordan Bos deservedly doubled Australia’s advantage shortly after the 70th minute.
A matter of seconds after coming off the bench, the 21-year-old slotted home from six yards after fellow substitute Riley McGree fizzed the ball hard and low across the box from the byline.
A mostly unremarkable contest offered one moment of regional football history, as Japan’s Yoshimi Yamashita became the first woman to referee at an Asian Cup.
Australia were among the pre-tournament favourites but Arnold said there was room for improvement ahead of their next match, against Syria.
The Socceroos coach was especially disappointed with their set pieces, which a physically imposing Australia have made a trademark threat.
“I can honestly say that we have got to improve a lot more than that,” said Arnold, who took Australia to the knockout phase of the World Cup in Qatar, where they lost 2-1 to eventual champions Argentina.
“One disappointment was set pieces… it’s something we need to improve on, and we will.”
Australia’s goalscorer Irvine said he was “really pleased with the players’ mentality” in chiselling away at stiff early resistance.
“They kept pushing, stayed patient, did all the right things and came out in the second half and got the important goals that got us the win,” he said.
In a host country with a massive Indian population, Igor Stimac’s unfancied side can be sure of a rowdy following for all of their games in Group B.
They face Uzbekistan on Thursday.
“Now our competition starts,” Stimac said after a tough opening fixture, voicing overall satisfaction with his team but lamenting lapses in concentration which led to both goals from close range.
“These goals didn’t come out of Australia’s brilliant display or action, just because of our irresponsibility at certain times,” he said.
With Uzbekistan coming up fast, the Croatian vowed not to dwell on defeat.
“We don’t have time for disappointment,” he said.
“There’s another game in (five) days’ time. So what are we going to do, cry?”