Matthew Spiranovic admits Japan's suffocating defensive style took the Socceroos by surprise in Tuesday night's 1-1 World Cup qualifier draw in Melbourne.
Known for their attacking flair through the likes of midfield superstars Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa, Japan were happy to keep numbers behind the ball to stave off a Socceroos comeback after taking an early lead.
The tourists took the lead just five minutes into the game at Etihad Stadium and held it until the 53rd minute when a clumsy penalty gifted Australia an equaliser through captain Mile Jedinak.
From there, the Blue Samurai rarely ventured forward with intent, focusing instead on preventing another goal.
"They scored the goal and were happy just to drop 10 players behind the ball," Spiranovic said.
"Knowing Japan in the past and the players that they have, I didn't expect it to be that extreme, to be honest.
"With the players they've got - the Hondas and Kagawas and these guys in the midfield - I don't think they would like to be just basically retreating behind the ball and chasing it.
"But it's normal away from home, they scored the goal and they were happy to do that."
The Socceroos lacked aggression in a poor first half and Spiranovic said their slow start allowed Japan to gain the upper hand.
"I think in the last two games, we've sort of put ourselves on the back foot with the early goals we've conceded and we've had to fight our way back into the game twice," Spiranovic said.
"It would be nice to start off in a better way and even score the first goal and see what teams want to do then, because I think it would be hard for them to react against us if we do go that goal up."
Japan's defensive work earned praise from coach Vahid Halilhodzic, who said his side had deserved to win.
"We let the opponent have the ball because we knew that we would have the chance to score," Halilhodzic said..
"The opponent couldn't create chances. We were good, organised, with discipline."