It’s been 16 long years since the Socceroos have made it into the final 16 at the World Cup. Not since the glory days of Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka, and Tim Cahill have Australia been this close to glory. It was down to the wire as well but a shocking win against Denmark saw the 2022 team match our 2006 high.
Australia beat Denmark 1-0 thanks to a brilliant goal from Mathew Leckie in the 60th minute. This is despite the fact that the team was drawing heavy criticism after the 4-1 loss to France, however with consistent wins, it seems the Aussies have defied the odds. In fact, they’ve done even more than that, they’ve produced Australia’s best group result ever with six points and two victories.
Goal scorer, Matthew Leckie, after the match said, “On this one occasion, we were on the ball and it was obviously a counter attack. First I wanted to cut inside and he sort of went that way. And just in the moment went left again and swung my left boot and just saw the ball rolling in. I was excited and happy.
“In the celebration you saw the emotion. I didn’t know what to do, I was just pounding my chest. Once the boys got together, the whole bench was there and I think I got slapped in the head a hundred times.”
To give an idea of how close things were for Australia’s progression into the next round, they needed Tunisia to lose or draw without a goal against France if Australia drew with Denmark. Tunisia had scored a goal against France which meant that there was no other option for the Socceroos but a win.
Leckie said he “had no idea” about the Tunisia goal at the time.
“Arnie [coach Graham Arnold] said in the press conference yesterday we have no control of what happens in the other game. If we don’t win today, we’re out. We went out with the mentality, we wanted to win.”
Coach, Graham Arnold, believes that the Socceroos performing well is great for the sport at home. While acknowledging that soccer is the “fourth or fifth main sport” in Australia, with the Socceroos succeeding, it sees more young kids getting into the sport and improving Australia’s performance in the long run.
“In 2006 and what that generation did,” Arnold said, “I was very fortunate, I was there as assistant coach with Guus Hiddink and experienced that as well. This generation [of players] was 10 years of age watching these guys do what they did in 2006. Those guys were the inspiration. This generation is talking about emulating the 2006 squad and achieving the same goals they saw as 10-year-olds.
“It’s about putting football a bit more on the map in Australia, [but] there’s so much more work to do – it’s crazy.”
Here’s hoping the Socceroos make it further than they ever have before with another win the the final 16. The next hurdle is Argentina on Sunday, December 4, 6am.
For more, check out this exhaustive look at the many controversies of the Qatar World Cup.