When alarms sounded this morning at 2am, most of us crept to television screens and local pubs with a sense of fear and anxiety. The match against the Socceroos and Denmark was an important one for both teams, ultimately deciding who would move through to the Round of 16 and knockout stage of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Much has been said of the Socceroos and as is often the case when playing on the world stage, critics are quick to turn on an otherwise proud and celebrated national team as soon as there is a loss. But in remarkable fashion, the Socceroos handled the pressure of the match with great skill; they were a team with a mission, refusing to give up or relax on the field until that final whistle and now, they’ve made history.
Delivering one of the greatest moments in Australian sport, a goal from Mathew Leckie in the 60th minute of the match changed everything for the Socceroos – and Australian football in general. The goal saw the Socceroos clinch victory in a thrilling match that saw them win 1-0. The victory comes just weeks after the team and head coach, Graham Arnold, were heavily criticised for failing to show courage in their loss to France in the tournament opener, with many critics even going so far as to call the team “timid.” But in keeping with the true underdog spirit that has defined this team, the Socceroos didn’t hold back and proved to be the more courageous of the athletes out there on the field.
Australia has not made it out of the group stages since the generation of Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill in 2006. Now, Graham Arnold has produced a team that pulled off a stunning victory, even despite not having household names like the 2006 team. Even without the likes of Kewell, this team has produced even greater results, with six points from their two victories proving to be the best group stage result Australia has ever had.
In going through to the knockout stages, Australia becomes the first team to ever win back-to-back matches at the World Cup. Speaking about how significant the victory was for the team and football back home in Australia, defender Milos Degenek said: “Every ball is like the last ball. You defend for your life. It’s like trying to block bullets that are going to hit your family. That’s what we’re doing. We’re blocking, throwing bodies at it.”
Graham Arnold however, remains focused on the road ahead. Asked if he’d give his players a reward for their efforts, he simply held up a bottle of water. “We’re in a fantastic facility – Aspire – where we can’t get out anyway.”
He added, “You look at Japan, you look at Saudi and look at underdogs. They achieve something and get a great result, they’re celebrating and they’re very emotional. And again, I hate saying this, but they go on social media until 4-5 in the morning, reading all these comments and pats on the back. I’ve been around long enough; the most important thing is recovery, [good] sleep and making sure you’re ready for the next game.”
For those watching at home and abroad, the victory is one that will be remembered as one of the greatest moments in Australian sport. Here are just some of the reactions.
Absolute scenes in the Square this morning! ????— Fed Square (@FedSquare) November 30, 2022
Congrats to the @socceroos who are now through to the @fifaworldcup Round of 16 for only the second time in history! ????#GiveIt100 #Socceroos #FIFAWorldCup pic.twitter.com/HyulAMkppt
Thanks to all the fans who braved the cold (and early morning!) to support the @Socceroos at Fed Square.— Fed Square (@FedSquare) November 30, 2022
We’re so thankful to have such an iconic space for all Victorians to come together ⚽️????????#GiveIt100 #Socceroos #FIFAWorldCup pic.twitter.com/0ilD16sqLH