A war of words erupted between Socceroos past and present as goal-scoring hero Archie Thompson took aim at critics labelling the Australian squad too old.
Thompson scored an 84th-minute winner in Australia’s 2-1 victory over Iraq on Wednesday morning (AEDT) which breathed life into the Socceroos’ flagging 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign.
It was the 33-year-old A-League star’s third goal in as many qualifiers, and he used it as a platform to hit out at those calling for the ageing Socceroo squad to be given a makeover.
Thompson was one of five over-30s – including fellow goal-scorer Tim Cahill (32) and skipper Lucas Neill (34) – to take the field against Iraq, while 32-year-old Marco Bresciano was an unused substitute.
“Who keeps telling me I’m old?” demanded Thompson when interviewed on the field post-match.
“Who keeps telling me I shouldn’t be in the Socceroos?
“Who keeps telling all us old boys we shouldn’t be part of the Socceroos?
“Maybe we’ve been lacking a little bit in the last (few) games – hopefully this will shut a few mouths.”
Former Socceroo-turned-football analyst Robbie Slater, who has been vocal in his call for some young blood to be given a chance in the national squad, fired back.
“To come and say that all they seem to cop is criticism and they’re too old, well Archie, sorry, we (the Socceroos) are too old,” Slater said on Fox Sports.
“And we’re not going to sit here on panels and other stations or on radio or people who write in papers and sit here and blow wind up people’s backsides and saying that everything is perfect. It’s not.
“We have an ageing team and that’s fact.
“We’re not saying that everyone’s bad players – we don’t criticise when they’re not to be criticised.
“But we’re not going to sit here and watch performance after performance after performance and watch the Socceroos go down in everybody’s minds in this country and sit back and say nothing.”
Slater would no doubt have been happy with the performance of 20-year-old winger Tommy Oar, who came off the bench to provide the pin-point cross for Thompson’s match-winning header.
Matthew Spiranovic (24) was also rock solid in central defence after being handed a start in place of injured regular Sasa Ognenovski, while 23-year-old Austrian-based midfielder James Holland was also given a chance off the bench late in the game.