It’s been a long time since John Aloisi’s 2005 penalty, and the ensuing 2006 World Cup that helped revitalize football in Australia.
In a nation like ours, with so many sports jostling for attention, there’s simply more at stake than winning or losing on the field – the sport’s fortunes in the future, at least partially, hinge on the success of the national teams.
And after a couple of lean runs in Brazil and Russia (it’s been 12 years since Australia won a game at a men’s World Cup), the Socceroos could sorely use a feel-good campaign.
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The Tim Cahill goal in 2014 was a great moment, but was an Oasis in the desert that was a brutal tournament, ending in three straight defeats.
Four years’ later, the Socceroos got a point against Denmark and should have probably done likewise against France, but the only times they found the back of the net were via two penalties.
There was very little for Australia to hang its hat on, and almost no ‘bounce’ back home as had been felt by previous World Cups.
But that can all change now.
A good men’s World Cup here can help capitalize on the positives that the game is enjoying elsewhere – not that anything could be at the level of 2006, but when the Socceroos are performing well, the game is in a better state as a result.
The A-League is experiencing somewhat of a revival, with the Sydney Derby welcoming in its biggest crowd in years over the weekend.
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There’s the Matildas hoping to win the World Cup in a few months, not to mention the success the likes of Ange Postecoglou and Kevin Muscat are having managing overseas.
France have got a shocker or two in them at international tournaments, the Danes didn’t outplay Australia four years ago, and Tunisia aren’t exactly heavyweights – the goal here must be to win a game, if not qualify to the last 16.
Teams (FIFA World Ranking):
The defending champions were hardly troubled in qualifying, going undefeated and locking up a spot in Qatar on the penultimate matchday with a thumping 8-0 win over Kazakhstan.
In case you missed it, Australia had to go through two tense sudden death qualifiers to reach Qatar; first against the UAE, and then Peru. The latter, of course, ended in a penalty shootout victory, with Andrew Redmayne writing his name in Australian sporting history.
A 1-0 win over Austria was enough for Denmark to top their European qualifying group with two games remaining, finishing well ahead of Scotland in second place, even with the latter triumphing on a final day dead rubber.
Tunisia were matched up against Mali in a two-legged play-off, with the only goal across 180 minutes of football coming via a Moussa Sissako own goal.
Denmark v Tunisia
France v Australia
Tunisia v Australia
France v Denmark
Australia v Denmark
Tunisia v France
The Socceroos have a genuine chance of navigating their way out of the group stage. They won’t be overmatched against Tunisia, while they managed to draw with Denmark last year.
On top of that, France have had a propensity to implode at multiple international tournaments of the past few years, so who knows? The head says three or four points is the best that we can hope for, the heart says that might be enough – or that six or even seven are possible.
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Australia’s 26-player squad for the 2022 FIFA World Cup
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