100 years after losing to New Zealand in the first-ever Australian international men’s game, the Socceroos got their revenge – and extended a two-decade unbeaten streak in the Trans-Tasman – with a 1-0 victory in Brisbane.
“Far from satisfied, to be honest. There are a lot of things we could have done better,” midfielder Jackson Irvine told Channel 10 after the game.
“At the end of the day, a win is a win,” he added.
Awer Mabil’s sensational strike from distance in the 33rd minute proved the winner, as the Spain-based winger shrugged off a lack of recent club minutes to score his eighth goal in 29 appearances for the Socceroos.
The centenary celebration doubled as the Socceroos’ last home game before the Qatar World Cup. And while that gave Graham Arnold’s men a positive result, it didn’t provide any assurance that the Socceroos could perform well in their fifth consecutive World Cup appearance.
With Tim Cahill and Guus Hiddink among the 25,392 in the stands – the Socceroos’ star player and manager of the drought-breaking 2006 World Cup appearance – the performance they witnessed was largely disappointing.
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Fans were hoping to see 18-year-old star Garang Kuol make his Socceroos debut, with Graham Arnold naming seven uncapped stars in an expanded squad. But Arnold opted to name a full-fledged squad filled with veterans of the World Cup qualifying campaign – before later promising a very different team would play in Sunday’s rematch in Auckland.
Despite the strong side, the Socceroos were scrappy, with rare positive moments marred by a lack of cohesion with the ball and defensive frailties without it. Against a more dangerous attacking side – New Zealand hadn’t scored in their last three matches before this encounter – those weaknesses might well have been exposed.
The Australian attack also struggled to create solid scoring opportunities, with Jackson Irvine missing a rare golden chance early in the play and substitute Mat Leckie hitting the post in the 85th minute when his counter-attacking opportunity in tete-a-tete was well saved.
Despite the difference in the FIFA rankings – Australia 39th against NZ 103rd – and NZ failing to qualify for the World Cup, the game was a well-rounded affair. Both teams had 12 shots, with New Zealand making four on target to Australia’s three. The visitors had more passes with greater accuracy and should have opened the scoring with a pair of good chances in the opening minutes.
“We could have scored a bit more and we need to be more ruthless,” coach Graham Arnold said after the game.
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HOW IT HAPPENED
The Socceroos faced a second-minute scare when centre-back Trent Sainsbury played a bad ball out of defense which led to Tim Payne firing from range – but only at Australia keeper Mat Ryan.
New Zealand should have opened the scoring in the 10th minute after a long ball from goalkeeper Oli Sail stunned the Australian defence. Australian centre-back Milos Degenek missed his header attempt to clear the danger, the ball falling for Andre De Jong who overshot Sainsbury to go one-on-one with Mat Ryan. But De Jong’s shot went just wide of the right post.
Australia started to grow in the game offensively, and Jackson Irvine missed a golden chance as an Aaron Mooy corner fell at his feet in the 17th minute. But his attempt to put the ball in the bottom corner has dribble wide.
Corners started to roll in for both sides, and Australia looked to have opened the scoring in the 28th minute when Jackson Irvine headed a corner from Mooy towards goal, with Trent Sainsbury deflecting it over the line from close range. But Irvine remained furious after the referee had already whistled, claiming Irvine had coached defender Nando Pijnaker – although replays appeared to show Pijnaker had simply slipped.
But their frustration was short-lived. In the 33rd minute, Jackson Irvine pocketed the ball into the New Zealand half and quickly fed left winger Awer Mabil, who rounded a defender and launched a long-range strike into the bottom corner.
After shooting wide from a similar distance earlier in the game, he got it right this time around, scoring his eighth goal in 29 appearances for the Socceroos.
The Socceroos settled into the game after the goal and came out more positively in the second stanza after a lackluster first half.
But New Zealand continued to threaten at times, with Joe Bell threatening Mat Ryan in the 57th minute with a long-range strike that thankfully slammed right into the veteran glover.
Ryan was forced out of his box and cleared a long ball two minutes later, and netted a big shot past New Zealand Premier League center forward Chris Wood in the process.
After an hour, Riley McGree replaced Ajdin Hrustic in midfield, with Adam Taggart – who ran hard but struggled to get involved – taken off for fellow striker Jamie Maclaren.
McGree scored almost immediately with an attempt from outside the box that sailed just over the bar.
Ten minutes after the first substitutions bout, striker Awer Mabil was replaced by winger Mat Leckie, while Fran Karacic was replaced by Nathaniel Atkinson.
The chances continued to flow, with Martin Boyle attempting an audacious volley from outside the box – but once again sending his shot well wide of the mark.
Atkinson made a crucial clearance ten minutes from time when New Zealand winger Ben Waine surged down the right flank and launched a dangerous cross, Atkinson sliding desperately to clear the ball at the back post.
But after a New Zealand free-kick straight ahead was sent into the wall, Australia were quickly broken in the 85th minute. Martin Boyle and Mat Leckie ran on goal, with Boyle playing in his fellow striker one-on-one. Leckie’s shot looked destined to nestle in the bottom corner, but Kiwi keeper Oli Sail got the slightest touch on the ball and deflected it against the outside of the post.
In the final minutes, Connor Metcalfe replaced Irvine, while Aziz Behich was replaced by youngster Joel King.
The game started to open up as both teams were tired, and the Socceroos carved out another decent chance in stoppage time with a counterattack when Martin Boyle won the ball in the half. opponent. He played a bad ball behind Riley McGree, substitute feeding Maclaren, who shot poorly from outside the box.
It proved to be one of the last acts of the game, as Australia bid farewell to their home country with a win.
Arnold has named a very strong starting XI for the clash which indicates his thoughts on the squad that will face France, Denmark and Tunisia in the group stage of the World Cup.
Captain Mat Ryan is in goal.
Veterans Milos Degenek and Trent Sainsbury start in the heart of defence, with Fran Karacic and Aziz Behich on either side.
In midfield, Aaron Mooy, Jackson Irvine and Ajdin Hrustic look set to form a three-man triangle.
Up front, Adam Taggart will lead the line, with Awer Mabil on the left and Martin Boyle on the right.
Remarkably, this is Taggart’s first appearance for the Socceroos at home, along with all of his previous 16 away appearances. It is also his first appearance for the green and gold since October 2021.