Are the Socceroos really up to World Cup standards?

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A 2-0 defeat to Japan on Thursday night means the Socceroos will once again have to qualify for the 2022 World Cup via the play-offs.

The scenario heading into Thursday night’s match was simple. Win and Australia would keep their hopes of automatic qualification for the World Cup alive.

Now, after a performance deserving of the outcome, the Socceroos must play a sudden-death match against another Asian team, followed by another against the fifth-placed team in South America (only if they win the first).

With a dozen experienced players out due to injury, Covid-19 and club refusal, it was a very inexperienced Aussie squad taking on a Japanese side with decades of dominance in Asia.

As such, the Aussies were defensively poor and ineffectual up front, but coach Graham Arnold didn’t look to blame build-up issues for that.

“I don’t want to use any excuses…I take full responsibility for the results. It has been a very tough two years due to international travel,” said Arnold.

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Despite the visitors dominating the Aussies for the entire game, it was only courageous efforts from captain and goalkeeper Matt Ryan to keep the game scoreless nearing its ending.

Unfortunately Ryan’s defensive line didn’t match his mentality, with some soft defence leading to Japan’s two-goal flurry in the dying minutes.

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Australia’s wit in the game’s lead-up had been constantly questioned over whether they would power through the off-field dramas. Their performance on Thursday night signified their ill-discipline when the going gets tough.

With Arnold forced to significantly change his line-up, uncertainty surrounded the effectiveness of such and the impact it would have on the game.

One change in particular caught much attention, with the side’s most prolific and consistent scorer in Jamie Maclaren only handed a few minutes off the bench.

Maclaren is unavailable for the Socceroos next match against Saudi Arabia, one now considered to be a ‘dead-rubber’, with Arnold defending his decision to bench him post-match.

“Jamie’s always been a player that can score a goal at any time in a game. Against the Japanese with big centre-backs we needed someone who can physically use their body more like Bruno Fornaroli with holding the ball up,” said Arnold.

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Australia has now won just one of their last six matches – being a 4-0 victory over an ordinary Vietnamese outfit. The defeat extends Australia’s winless run against Japan to nine matches over 13 years.

The journey to Qatar becomes increasingly more challenging and Australia only have themselves to blame.

Although the Saudi Arabia contest may be meaningless regarding their standings, Arnold’s side’s mentality will be put in the spotlight to determine if they are deserving of a position in the World Cup.

Feature Image Credit: Socceroos

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Mitchell Roese
Sports enthuse currently studying a Bachelor of Communications (Journalism) at the University of Technology Sydney. Covering the Central Coast Mariners 2021/22 A-League Season

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