Australia, Socceroos' best moments against France, Tunisia and Denmark

Australia, Socceroos’ best moments against France, Tunisia and Denmark

World Cups are about magical moments. Unannounced and deleted by many, Socceroos has created more than their fair share this year.

Here’s the story of Australia’s ongoing World Cup campaign so far, told through key moments and milestones in the group stage.


Australia started well with France in the opening match and competed fiercely in the first few minutes.

“You go to your first game against world champions at the World Cup without any friends,” says Alex Wilkinson, who played all three games for the Socceroos at the 2014 World Cup. “High risk. Go straight in. It was a really good start, we were giving them some problems.»

As French news service France24 reported live: «The reigning world champions are hot and Australians are taking advantage of that.»

Then the impossible happened. Mathew Leckie took a long ball from the right from Harry Souttar, beat France’s Lucas Hernandez and passed a pass to Craig Goodwin, who sent the ball in. a nil.

As Harry Kewell aptly put it in the SBS comment box: «Oh my God.» The stands exploded, the players jumped with joy. «It was a great goal and they deserved it,» says former Soccereros striker David Mitchell.

«It was definitely a practice floor move,» says 2006 Socceroos legend John Aloisi. «The problem is not only that Leckie pushed forward to pick up the ball, but Jackson Irvine had a great forward run to drag the centre-back out of position, giving Goodwin the opportunity.»

Goodwin described the moment as «pure bliss.» The Australians had hope.


France are not world champions for nothing and quickly stepped up to equalize with Adrien Rabiot in the 27th minute. Five minutes later, Australian right-back Nathaniel Atkinson was caught by Rabiot after a heavy touch. After a quick one-two with Kylian Mbappe, he switched to Olivier Giroud for a simple finish.

“Atkinson could have gone deeper, it was a heavy touch, but Irvine played him and could have given him a better choice,” says Aloisi. “I thought Behich was a little too wide on the other side of the pitch. We were just too open.

“The kid actually did pretty well,” said Coach Graham Arnold.

He gave his best against one of the best players in the world.

Atkinson was upset after the game.

“It’s no secret, how fast is that man? [Mbappe] it is,» he said.

«You take one step at it and it goes. You can always have a plan as a team. But sometimes if it’s one-on-one, it beats you.»


From then on, it was a damage control exercise for the stunned Socceroos. Australia did not break up, but they retreated.

«We got a little messy towards the end,» says Mitchell. «They gained momentum when they scored. It’s psychologically difficult.»

After the Socceroos players lost to France.Credit:getty

Wilkinson, a veteran defender, said: «When defending for long periods of time, if you can’t hold the ball for more than a pass or two, it becomes more and more difficult to get the ball away, to get the ball out of your own defensive zone. You spend a lot of energy defending in a deep block. Compounds and «Compounds and compounds. If you can’t have the ball and you’re attacking a good team like the French against attack after attack, the goals will come.»

It’s over 4-1. «I thought it might be,» says Aloisi. “In any game, you will come under pressure. You must go back to what you practiced in training – henceforth you will be freed. The moment you start to lose shape and do things that weaken your structure, that’s when you get tense. You have to try to handle the situation.

But if you’re up against Mbappe and he’s always running towards you, there’s no easy solution.»

‘PURE ecstasy’

If Australia exited the group stage, the pre-tournament consensus was that the key was in the hands of the Tunisia match. Socceroos brought density. He peaked at the 23rd minute when Mitchell dropped into midfield to get a break from Duke Souttar. He played this to Riley McGree, who spread it to Goodwin on the left flank.

«It was a movement they practiced,» Aloisi says. They put pressure on the midfielders. They beat the bass with a ball from Souttar to Duke, then gave Goodwin a big break. Aziz Behich runs into midfield, but draws a player and brings two against two inside the penalty area. There was some luck in the diversion, but they created it.”

Goodwin’s deflecting cross, the header jumped to Duke, who was standing in the corner of the net. It was a high-octane target that set the tone for the rest of Australia’s performance.

«A great goal at a great time,» says Mitchell. It was luck, but you need it. Duke did a great job getting the ball and moving on.»

The striker, gesturing to his son Jaxson in the stands, described the moment he celebrated as «pure enthusiasm».

«There’s been a lot of sacrifice – the family being alone most of the time over the past few years, it hasn’t been easy,» he said.

«But those kinds of moments make those sacrifices worthwhile and that’s the mindset you have to have.»

Australia had a very important leadership. Now they had to hold on to it.


The midfield intensity of Aaron Mooy, Jackson Irvine and others made the difference, chasing the second balls and preventing Tunisia from making a comeback.

«It’s an Australian quality that’s been around for years,» Aloisi says. «We’re not a team to sit around and wait for the opponent to make a move. It doesn’t surprise me, we’ve seen it before. Australian teams are all about that. We’ve always had it – it used to be [Mile] Jedinak, formerly [Vince] grella Now Mooy and Irvine.

Mitchell sees some parallels with the team spirit and courage that Australia displayed under Frank Arok in the 1980s – incidentally also a time when several Socceroos had Scottish backgrounds and Graham Arnold was starting to make his mark as a young striker.

“People talk about Aussie DNA but it has been there for a long time and we have it today. We always punch above our weight. Obviously things are different now. Arnie is very experienced as a coach, he has played in the Netherlands and Belgium, he has great coaching experience and Guus «Hiddink was a big part of his era. But you can see the pattern. They build their teams defensively and they’re always there for each other, always supporting each other. It’s great to see.»

«Right there. It’s there with the best defender, midfielder and forward – one of the best individual shows I’ve ever seen.

jackson irvin


The waves of attack were breaking and it was Souttar who did more than anyone else to break the hearts of Tunisians. Tunisia’s Taha Yassine Khenissi missed the goal when centre-back Kye Rowles mishandled a bouncing ball. But Souttar’s unforgettable sprint, tough fight and icy cold recovery blew away the chance.

«This type of fight not only elevates your team, but also affects the opponent,» says Aloisi. “They see that even if you make a mistake, a teammate will be protected, it puts the opponent’s mood down. That’s why it was so big right now.

“It was great. Note that Souttar was asked about his fitness, he only appeared in a few games. [after knee reconstruction surgery] and at that moment he showed that he could lift the team. It was huge.”

«A lot of it is instinctive. You don’t have time to calculate in these moments. There’s no time to think. You’d see the ball coming past Kye and you’d think, ‘I have to tackle before the ball goes into the box.’ He formed the floor and timed it perfectly, but the ball was inside,» Wilkinson said. He kept it up and moved it forward. And it was great to see two or three Australian players coming in to support him. Being able to do that at the end of the game showed how determined they were and how much they wanted it.»

Jackson Irvine says: «The moment, that fight, I think in some ways was celebrated almost more than gold. It’s going to be a game played for years to come.

«Right there. It’s there with the best defender, midfielder and forward – one of the best individual shows I’ve ever seen.


It all came to this. Would Tunisia’s win be a diversion or was it a taste of things to come for Socceroos? Denmark was determined to show that it was old.

Aziz Behich celebrates Australia's victory in Tunisia.

Aziz Behich celebrates Australia’s victory in Tunisia.Credit:getty

«It started across the first two group games,» Wilkinson says. «They really took care of us, they were creating gaps between the lines, they looked pretty good. They really camped on our field for the first 30 minutes.»

Mat Ryan stood upright in the Australian goal a few times, with Danish midfielder Mathias Jensen entering the gap from the right in the 11th minute and kicking a hard shot into the goal. Ryan jumped to get him around the near post. And that was as close as Denmark came.

“There was that long period at the beginning of the game that they really gave us,” Mitchell says. «And you’re dealing with a top side – I think 10th in the world, one of the dark horses of the World Cup – and they got us right back. Then when you see your goalkeeper make such a great save, it’s uplifting. You could see the faith was there, the desire was there. ”

Mathew Leckie defeats Danish glove player Kasper Schmeichel.Credit:Getty/AP


Denmark’s momentum waned and the Australians started clicking both sides at halftime. The news that Tunisia took the lead against France in the other group match changed the equation facing Australia. A draw may not be enough.

Souttar won the ball defensively once again, playing forward to find McGree, who found Leckie with a long pass. The winger had two players to beat. He cut inward, then backed up, then sent the ball past Kasper Schmeichel into the Danish net. Signal early morning turmoil in hundreds of thousands of households.

«I got up from the couch, the dog was barking next to me, it was unbelievable,» says Mitchell, who has scored top goals in World Cup qualifiers in the past. “It was one of those moments. Leckie was calm, he has experience, he played in the Bundesliga. Many players can stay in this state for a very long time. But he got an opportunity and took advantage of it.”

Leckie later described the split-second timing: «In those moments, you don’t think much or don’t have time to think,» he told SBS. «It happens so fast. He was a great ball. Another man to beat. I wanted to interrupt. He came back from the road. I went the other way. Low and hard. It’s hard for a goalie to save.»


That’s it: wait for the last third of the game and Australia is over. Socceroos figuratively filled sandbags and served in the trenches, but had the composure to stage their own raids to keep the Danes under pressure.


«We put our bodies at risk, we were there for each other, we supported each other,» Wilkinson says. “They were enormous, running and chasing them. I actually thought Denmark looked more dangerous in the first 30 minutes. We were only able to close them.”

Despite the crazy action on the field, time was running slow. Arnold made a crucial substitution and brought an extra defender to Bailey Wright, giving right-back Milos Degenek more room for wide defence.

“The longest was half an hour,” Mitchell says, trying to suppress her tears. “But they were great. Most of the credit goes to Arnie. He talks about the family, the brotherhood in this team, and we’ve seen it. They worked on this on the training ground – always protecting each other. I’m just so proud. People everywhere are watching it, following the team, following the story, and I just think ‘this is a good game’.»

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