A Win’s a Win, and That’s Just What the Socceroos Did

After the surprise of finishing second in Group A but being blessed with not facing Japan in the semi-final, Australia could easily have fallen into a lull, thinking that the footballing Gods were on their side and that a win against the UAE, a rising but nonetheless unestablished footballing nation, would take care of itself.

But Australia didn’t allow itself to enter that vulnerable state at Newcastle Stadium. The start could hardly have gone better. Centre-back Trent Sainsbury, who has been mightily impressive all tournament, broke through with the first chance of the game, heading a Mass Luongo-delivered corner into the net. Sainsbury’s assured defending, confidence on the ball and presence at set-pieces has made him one of the great assets to this current team, and will surely be a fixture in Australian teams for years to come.

When they were able to draw breath after Sainsbury’s opener, the Emirati’s were able to employ a press on the Socceroos when defending, a tactic we became used to when seeing opposing line-ups try to rid Ange Postecoglou’s A-League teams of possession. The stubbornness drilled into Ange’s sides to play the ball along the ground when moving forwards leaves defenders who would rather not be on the ball susceptible to panicking when they are pressured. However it is no coincidence that centre-halves Sainsbury and Matthew Spiranovic – ‘keeper Mat Ryan too – are capable of making the right decisions to set up attacks and retain possession.

Soon after weathering the UAE’s brief resurgence – where Ahmed Khalil struck the post and had Ryan beaten at his near post – the Socceroos doubled their lead. Australian numbers swarmed the UAE box, leading to some desperation to block any shot that may come in, where Luongo managed to poke the ball out to the left side of the 6-yard box where Jason Davidson let the ball run on to his favoured left foot and rolled it past the gloved UAE skipper Majed Naser.

In the second half, the UAE began, at the very least, to prove to the greater public that their defeat of Japan was no fluke. Omar Abdulrahman, one of many Abdulrahmans in the UAE’s footballing ranks, showed his poise on the ball during a mazy run that ventured into the box, and otherwise backed up the hype that has surrounded him since his international debut by consistently demonstrating pinpoint passing and being the foundation for the majority of the UAE’s attacks. Khalil was the main goalscoring threat, complementing the UAE’s much more meaningful challenge for superiority in midfield throughout the second period. In fact the Emirates’ work ethic was most admirable, for if it were the Socceroos hunting down every loose ball and being persistently aggressive in one-on-ones, the “never-say-die” mentality often attributed to the way Australians compete would surely be thrown about.

Although Australia’s early lead had allowed them to relax and not take as many risks when attacking, a 2-0 scoreline is notorious for at times being difficult to handle. In the back of each player’s, fan’s and Postecoglou’s mind was the fact that a goal from the UAE would suddenly spark fretting bordering on frantic tension in every person directly or indirectly involved with the Socceroos. On the touchline, a sodden figure maniacally implored his troops to maintain the standard they had set under his reign. Just prior to injury time, Trent Sainsbury again proved his value and importance to Australia’s defensive endeavours with a brilliantly timed slide tackle that dispossessed the UAE striker, following his manager’s orders to a ‘T’.

The performance wasn’t spectacular, comprehensive or even entirely convincing, but ultimately it was a cup game. And a win in a cup game is all you want, no matter how the means of achieving that may appear. Ange Postecoglou is someone who has always fussed over perfecting the performance, with the result made to seem like something that merely shapes how the performance is interpreted by the media and, consequently, the public. That was his mantra, or excuse if you will, when Australia couldn’t buy a win nor a non-Cahill goal during 2014. Now it appears that things have come together at the right time, which was his job description.

Now for the Final. Who cares how we play, all we want is a win.

About Tom Riordan

Tom Riordan is in his second year of a Bachelor of Journalism at Swinburne University. He loves all sports, and plays for Brunswick Cricket Club. He supports the Western Bulldogs and can be found on weekends among half a dozen others in Q38 on the top level of the MCC.


  1. I am with you, Tom.

    Two early goals (and a surprisingly placid crowd) took much of
    the sting out of the game. The Socceroos only needed to do
    what they had to and ensure that they were victorious.

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