Even Socceroos legends Mark Bosnich and Craig Foster struggled to comprehend how a team of misfits could beat one of the strongest teams in Europe in a do-or-die World Cup game.
Breaking down Australia’s extraordinary 1-0 victory over Denmark that catapulted them into the Round of 16 in Qatar, the SBS panel was at times almost lost for words as they attempted to explain how this Socceroos team could trump the achievements of the celebrated 2006 team that was jam-packed full of household names.
The phrase, ‘that’s football’, gets thrown about a lot to explain the inexplicable, and perhaps in this case that’s about as close as we’ll get to full comprehension of a team that has achieved the unthinkable.
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This team that so nearly missed out on qualification for the World Cup and could easily have resulted in the axing of Graham Arnold well before they made it to Qatar can’t be compared player for player with the likes of Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka and Tim Cahill, yet by winning two group games and getting out of the group with six points they’ve already usurped them as Australia’s highest achievers at a World Cup.
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But how? According to Foster it all comes down to true Aussie grit and mateship, which he says in certain circumstances can overcome far superior technical ability.
”Phenomenal moment for Australian football and it’s very different to the 2006, that is the beauty of this generation right now, that was a celebrated generation, it was an amazing group of players, whereas this is a different set of positives and that’s great because Australia needs to learn from that,” Foster said.
“They don’t all have to be playing at the top level if they’ve got this level of togetherness, this level of spirit, anything can happen.”
Bosnich added that “the better team did win” but said ”it’s hard to sort of put really into words what it means” as he searched for an eloquent way to compare this incredible 2022 effort with the 2006 team.
“We all saw what the 2006 lot did for the whole game, for the whole generation,” he said.
“There are young kids who are going to be watching this right now and they’ll be doing exactly the same for those next generation of young kids and for Australian football.”
Such is the power of the World Cup.
And while many of the kids who found their love for football watching the 2006 tournament had ‘Cahill’ on the backs of their Socceroos jerseys after his two-goal heroics against Japan, it will be Mat Leckie, now laying claim to the tag of ‘World Cup specialist’, who stole the hearts of a nation this time around.
While Mitchell Duke’s header to win the game against Tunisia was vital, Leckie’s moment against Denmark was special – a moment of absolute individual brilliance when it was crunch time.
Describing the goal after the game, Foster was still coming to terms with how he got the ball past Kasper Schmeichel after the counter-attack Leckie had led seemed to run out of puff.
“Here we thought he was waiting for someone to come on his right, and we’re waiting for someone to join in on the picture, ‘Come on, this is our moment,’ he chopped inside and the defender did quite well and we thought, ‘Oh the moment might be lost,’ but he came to his left again and you know, you have to have that bit of luck where it goes through the legs.,” Foster said.
Leckie scores brilliant opener
Leckie’s goal came just two minutes after Tunisia had taken the lead against France, putting Australia in the unexpected position of having to beat Denmark, not just draw with them, to progress.
”So in the end, they wanted to win the game and we saw that Tunisia were winning the other one, eight changes (made by the France team for the Tunisia clash), France didn’t play well, they had to have it in their hands and in the end they were able to do it, it’s a precious moment.,” Foster concluded.
Meanwhile, sitting next to Foster and Bosnich, ex-Denmark goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen, who now lives in Australia after finishing his career with Melbourne City, was in shock.
”Obviously from a Danish perspective it’s hugely disappointing, they underperformed, but take nothing away, Australia dominated after that first 20 minutes, they took their chances, I thought that individual brilliance from Leckie was simply outstanding and I just bow, as a person who lives here I know how much it means to Australians, to Australian football, so fantastic,” he said.
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