The Socceroos’ recent goalscoring record is a problem, and they’ve left a potential solution at home

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After a rocky qualifying campaign, the Socceroos fate will be decided over the next fortnight.

Following four consecutive appearances at the World Cup finals, Australia are on the verge of missing out, with difficult matches against the UAE and Peru standing in their way.

In many areas this current team can compete with the best in Asia and would likely put in a respectable performance against most teams around the world. Despite not being in their prime, the likes of Mat Ryan, Aaron Mooy, Mat Leckie and Trent Sainsbury are still international quality players.

The next generation of Socceroo including Jackson Irvine and Europa League winner Ajdin Hrustic have also proven their quality, rightfully earning their spot in the squad.

Unfortunately, one key area has plagued the Socceroos for almost a decade, and will likely continue to this upcoming qualification fortnight. There are simply not enough goals in this team, and the potential answer to the side’s problem, Jason Cummings, has been left at home.

For years the Socceroos have been on the hunt for a regular goalscorer, someone who can be relied upon when the going gets tough.

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Tim Cahill was that for Australia for almost a decade, you only need to look at his double against China in the quarter-finals of the 2015 AFC Asian Cup to see that.

Fans were hoping that by the time Cahill retired someone would step up and be that reliable force up front. It has been nearly four years since he last pulled on the green and gold, yet no one has cemented themselves as the team’s striker since.

Only one player of the current squad has scored over 10 international goals, that being Leckie who has 13 in his 69 appearances for the nation. Strikers including Jamie Maclaren, Adam Taggart and Mitch Duke have each scored between six and eight goals, however, very few have come against top sides.

With matches against the UAE and Peru over the next two weeks, many were hoping that a convincing performance against Jordan would prove that the team can create goals without needing a set-piece. Unfortunately, Thursday morning’s game did nothing to alleviate the questions and concerns.

One headed goal and a scrappy Mabil strike off a corner hardly demonstrated the fluid attack that Australians were hoping for, with both Nicholas D’Agonstino and Maclaren struggling to make their own chances.

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This has been the same thing we have seen over the last six months of struggle for the national side. In their four matches against Japan and Saudi Arabia, the team were only able to score one goal, a Hrustic free-kick.

One can only wonder what a player who can create their own opportunities like Cummings could have done in a game like Thursday morning’s or even in earlier qualifiers.

Surely a game like the one against Jordan could have been the perfect situation to see him in action in international football, without any pressure on the result.

In many ways the lack of consistent performance from Socceroos strikers has been paved over by an easy early qualifying draw and the emergence of Harry Souttar.

Against opposition who do not have the calibre of player that the Socceroos do, goals will almost always come. Whether that came from a striker or from the head of Souttar, the spotlight was for a long time not on the issue.

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When the Stoke City defender went down with an ACL rupture against Saudi Arabia in Sydney, many were nervous that we may have been focusing too much of our attack through a centre-back. The end to the Socceroos’ qualifying campaign has proven that that may have been the case.

Socceroos head coach Graham Arnold cannot be blamed for Souttar’s injury nor for using his height to the team’s advantage.

The question must however be asked as to why goals have become such a rarity against top opposition, and why changes including bringing in Cummings have not been implemented.

With his incredible performances this season in the A-League Men, many thought that Cummings would likely at least make the Socceroos squad for the play-offs. To their dismay he was ultimately not selected. The excuse used was that he plays in a similar style to Maclaren, however many fans did not buy this reasoning for his exclusion.

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A total of 10 goals and six assists over just 21 ALM matches has been a brilliant return for the striker, proving dangerous everywhere on the pitch for Central Coast Mariners.

His ability to make his own chances has felt like something that the Socceroos have really been lacking, as well as his capability to find a killer pass for teammates when he isn’t able to do it himself.

With the recent struggles to find goals in any way other than set pieces, it feels like a missed opportunity leaving someone who can both score and create goals back in Australia. Surely he should have at least been in the squad with the chance to prove his worth to Arnold during camp.

All of Australia will be backing the Socceroos over the next fortnight, hoping that someone will stand up and send the nation to Qatar 2022.

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If Duke, Taggart, D’Agastino or Maclaren can find the back of the net you would be hard pressed to find an Australian who would be disappointed, no matter their previous feelings on the player.

Losing Souttar certainly hurt the team this qualification process, however, it just hasn’t felt like Arnold or the squad have worked out a way to turn their scoring fortunes around since then.

An in-form player like Cummings has been left in Gosford, with Arnold instead sticking with the underperforming status-quo.

The one thing that can get Australia to the World Cup finals is goals. Currently it doesn’t look like the Socceroos will be able to score enough to beat both the UAE and Peru, with the nation’s World Cup dreams hanging in the balance.

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William Makepeace
Current Intern covering Canberra United. Sports Media student at University of Canberra who lives and breathes Football

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