Another valiant Socceroos defeat means it’s time to change the narrative not sit back and hope

Craig Goodwin, fifa world cup, football, Socceroos



Craig Goodwin’s early opener had Aussie fans dreaming of an upset for nearly 20 glorious minutes before the Socceroos reverted to type and invited France back into the game.

So near, yet so far – yet again. The Socceroos and valiant, backs-to-the-wall defeats in World Cups seem to go hand in hand.

Had Mitch Duke’s swerving long-range drive flown into the top corner instead of just wide of Hugo Lloris’s goal in the first half, maybe this would have been a different story.

But as is often the case with the Socceroos, after stunning the defending champions with a superb early opener, they retreated defensively and invited wave after wave of attacks from Les Bleus.

Sadly for Graham Arnold’s men, that was always going to spell trouble. Didier Deschamps’s team simply have too much quality not to make the most of it.

So when Mat Ryan played the already struggling Nathaniel Atkinson into trouble – Atkinson’s first touch was terrible, but Ryan did his defence no favours with his initial pass to an under-pressure Jackson Irvine – it was no surprise to see France’s pantomime villain Adrien Rabiot make the most of it.

Rabiot is one of those footballers who always excel at this level. Immensely unlikeable, his unwavering self-belief simply allows him to get the better of his opponents.

He predictably scored France’s equaliser with a textbook first-half header before pressuring Atkinson into a mistake to set up Olivier Giroud for a tap-in barely five minutes later.

And for the second World Cup in a row, the position of right back caused the biggest headache for the Socceroos.

Let’s be honest, facing the might of Kylian Mbappe is a tough ask for even the best defenders in the world. But it becomes an impossible task when you can’t hold on to possession in your own defensive third.

Hearts defender Atkinson endured a torrid time as the Paris Saint-Germain star ran at him at will, and Mbappe’s second-half goal – from an uncharacteristic header – killed the game off as a contest.

It will be interesting to see if Atkinson starts over Fran Karacic against Tunisia on Saturday.

But you can’t blame Australia’s 4-1 defeat on one player alone, and while Atkinson hardly had the best of nights, he wasn’t alone.

Ryan deserves the lion’s share of the blame for France’s second goal. There’s a time and a place to play out from the back, and five minutes after conceding to a French side launching wave after wave of attacks at your defenders isn’t it.

Both Atkinson and the otherwise willing Aziz Behich lacked the pace to adequately deal with Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele respectively, while the Socceroos lost much of their attacking shape when Duke was taken off 11 minutes into the second half.

Still, there were some positives. The Socceroos looked fearless inside the opening 20 minutes and deservedly took the lead when Mat Leckie crossed for Goodwin to blast home at the far post.

It was a goal made in the A-League Men – a fact Australia’s domestic league should be shouting from the rooftops for the rest of the season.

Australia's midfielder #23 Craig Goodwin (C) celebrates with teammates after he scored the opening goal during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group D football match between France and Australia at the Al-Janoub Stadium in Al-Wakrah, south of Doha on November 22, 2022. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

Craig Goodwin ) celebrates with teammates after he scored the opening goal. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

Leckie has been much maligned of late, but the reality is he’s one of the few Socceroos who can match it physically with an imposing side like France.

And Goodwin’s calm and composed finish – he did well to keep Leckie’s deflected cross down – was the mark of a man who has been dominating Australia’s domestic league for a couple of seasons now.

Goodwin’s goal gave us all hope to dream – before reality came crashing back down on an outmatched Socceroos side.

But it’s time to reset the narrative. When the Socceroos run out against Tunisia at the same venue on Saturday night, they will do so against one of the most fanatically backed teams in the tournament.

We can’t just sit back and hope for the best.

It’s time to show the same intensity for 90 minutes – plus FIFA’s interminable stoppage time – as we did in the opening stanza against France.

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