THE signs have been there for some time, but were papered over for many by hope, optimism and blind faith.
But there can be no doubt as to the Socceroos’ shortcomings after their opening 4-0 loss to Germany.
The Germans will play more countries off the pitch before the tournament is over, but the Australian side’s inadequacies dominated the headlines back home.
Former goalkeeper Mark Bosnich said it best after the game; Australian fans don’t mind if their side is beaten, but to do so in such a manner is unforgiveable.
Unforgiveable, yes. Surprising? Maybe not.
Under Pim Verbeek, the Socceroos have not put a wholly convincing performance together since last August’s 3-1 win over Ireland.
Over 900 minutes have been played since then.
Verbeek kept the faith throughout, putting his focus on an ability to shut teams down and eke out hard-fought victories.
His side had little chance to do that against the Germans.
Surprise starter Richard Garcia’s goal-bound effort was blocked in the third minute in Durban in what was to be the closest his side would come.
Most disappointing for the Dutch coach would be the performance of his defence.
Full-backs Luke Wilkshire and Scott Chipperfield had appeared to add reliability to the Socceroos back four when they were re-installed during the pre-Cup friendlies, but they were handed a torrid night by Phillip Lahm, Thomas Muller and Lukas Podolski.
Centrally, Lucas Neill and Craig Moore were exposed for pace and appeared more intent to argue with correct off-side calls than worry about the threat around goal of Podolski, Mezut Ozil and Miroslav Klose.
But while his back four’s performance was hardly his doing, questions over Verbeek’s starting 11 – as Bosnich again duly noted – must be raised.
Joshua Kennedy had started the previous two games for the Socceroos but was consigned to the bench, with Cahill asked to play as a lone striker.
It sent a clear message to the Germans; we’re here for a draw.
It also rendered Cahill – Australia’s most important player – virtually useless.
His frustration had clearly overflowed when he lunged at Bastian Schweinsteiger on 56 minutes.
Incorrect call it may have been, but it summed up a maddening evening for the Everton man.
The selection of Garcia over Mark Bresciano was another curious one. He, like Cahill, was asked to play out of position.
Brave on the left side of midfield and then pushed forward, the job of unlocking Germany was nonetheless above the Hull City winger.
So why were Bresciano and Harry Kewell – two players capable of creating chances and scoring the odd goal – left wondering on the bench?
The former had been heavily involved in the pre-Cup friendlies, while Kewell has trained fully for a week now.
Both have battled injury concerns, they were considered fit enough to take their places among the substitutes.
With Saturday’s game against Ghana now rendered a must-win, surely both could have benefited from a 20-minute spell against the Germans.
Instead, defensive midfielder Mile Jedinak and striker Nikita Rukavytsya were handed runouts.
It will be intriguing to see how Verbeek will approach the game against the Black Stars. History suggests the Dutchman is unlikely to tweak his tried and now tired formation.
He has potentially just two more games in charge of the Socceroos before his contract expires and he departs for a post with the Morocco FA.
It’s conceivable that – unless Australia’s performances improve – Verbeek might not have had a job to return to anyway.
The manner of the loss to Germany came as a crushing blow for those who had found themselves swept up in the excitement of the World Cup.
But for those in Australia who have ardently followed the Socceroos, it was an ‘I told you so’ of the bitterest kind.