The Socceroos registered just their third World Cup victory in history late last month against African nation Tunisia at the Al Janoub Stadium. It was a crucial game in the context of Australia’s campaign in Qatar, after the Graham Arnold-managed side were thumped 4-1 in their opening fixture against defending champions France.
A loss and they were out – while a win would place them in second spot of Group D with a game to play. Their opponents Tunisia were entering the match-up on a high – having drawn 0-0 with the world number ten ranked side Denmark in their first outing. That result against the Danes ensured Jalel Kadri’s men were favourites in the odds on the world cup 2022, garnering a pre-match price of 11/10 to reign supreme over the Aussies.
With their World Cup on the line and arguably the worst Socceroos team on paper to have played at the sport’s premier showcase, Australia were facing an uphill battle. However, they displayed the underdog spirit that has been with synonymous with Australian sporting teams for many decades.
Immediately from kick-off, the Socceroos showed plenty of intent. They were stout in defence and proceeded to counterattack when the opportunity presented itself. The tactic worked a treat, as the Aussies struck in the 23rd minute courtesy of a beautifully placed header from Mitchell Duke. It was somewhat of a fortunate goal, as Craig Goodwin’s cross in was deflected by one of the Tunisian defenders, before falling perfectly in the path of Duke.
From that point forward it was all Australia. Midfielder Aaron Mooy was exceptional in the engine room, directing play with patience and precision to help the Socceroos dictate the pace of the game and create meaningful attacking opportunities as a result. Couple that with Harry Souttar’s tireless performance at the back, in which the defender was awarded man of the match honours for his multiple goal-saving tackles and headers – and Australia managed to hold on to win 1-0. By doing so – it marked Australia’s first win at a World Cup since 2010 in South Africa when they defeated Serbia 2-1.
The win is vindication for Socceroos manager Arnold, who copped plenty of criticism for his side’s performances in the qualifiers and their subsequent first outing in Qatar against Kylian Mbappe and company. When asked post-match about his nay-sayers and what a win would mean for Australia, Arnold spoke candidly.
“Who cares? They’ve never coached,” Arnold said in response to his critics.
“I haven’t seen who was critical. Some of them have never been to a World Cup. I don’t listen to them. They have no effect on my life.”
Arnold also noted the impact the win will have on the popularity of football in Australia.
“For the fans back at home, it’s a moment they’ll remember for the rest of their lives and I just wanted them to enjoy it,” he said.
“There’s one or two teams that can bring the nation together: Socceroos and the Matildas. When the Socceroos play at World Cups, AFL fans, rugby league fans, cricket fans…they become football fans. Imagine the celebrations at home?
Arnold’s comments are just further proof of the importance participating nations place on succeeding at the World Cup – even when it’s not the country’s predominate sport.