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Jun 2, 2013

Socceroos look to fix slow starts

The Socceroos have promised no more Nanna naps, admitting conceding the first goal during their World Cup qualifying campaign has become the team's biggest weakness.

Going a goal down has become the Socceroos' default position over the past 12 months.

Leaving aside the East Asian Cup qualifying tournament in Hong Kong against moderate opposition, Australia have conceded first in their past five games - including three World Cup qualifiers.

Doing the same against Japan in their qualifier in Saitama on Tuesday night would make it desperately hard for them to get anything out of the match - Japan needing only a draw to book a World Cup berth.

Sitting third in the group and needing a top-two finish, the Socceroos need far more.

No one has any answers why the Socceroos seem to need the jolt of going behind to lift - an issue put in sharp focus by going 2-0 down against Oman in Sydney in March before waking to snatch a 2-2 draw.

"The reaction we got, the way we played after going 2-0 down is what we need to do from the beginning," defender Luke Wilkshire said.

"Had we done it from the beginning, you're looking at a different game. Hopefully from the start (against Japan), what comes is that drive, passion and determination.

"One thing in the national team, the desire's always there, the hunger's always there. We've just got to try and get it right (from the start)."

Admitting the issue is proving costly and counter-productive to their World Cup hopes, Australia have worked hard on sorting it out behind closed doors in their training camp in Saitama.

With their past few sessions closed to media as a pack of more than 30 Japanese television and press representatives follow their every move in Saitama, north of Tokyo, Socceroos goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer admits much work has been done away from prying eyes to fix the problem.

As well as defenders being drilled in two-on-one and three-on-two sessions continually, the Socceroos also had to relive the Oman match, watching the "video nasty" on Saturday and having key mistakes pointed out.

"There's been a lot of work done on it. They've been very intense the sessions, and it's been very effective, very constructive," Schwarzer said.

"We've got to learn not to concede firstly, and try to set the pace.

"(Against Oman) we've learned what not to do, how not to defend, how not to play in certain instances. Going behind always makes it a very difficult task for you."

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