The Socceroos have completed a perfect first phase of 2022 World Cup qualification after defeating Jordan 1-0 to make it eight wins from eight games.
Australia confirmed their place in the next round of the AFC 2022 World Cup qualifiers with a routine 5-1 win against minnows Chinese Taipei this morning.
With most Socceroos fans braving the 5:00am wake-up with a concern for the performance rather than the almost inevitable result, eyes were firmly fixed on players new and old as they vied for squad positions in the Olympics and the fourth round of AFC qualifying alike.
Danny Vukovic: 7
Generally assured performance, but didn’t venture as far out as sweeper-keeper Mat Ryan in the previous match, and when he did, almost conceded a rushed lob from a Taiwanese attacker. Made a solid near-post save in the first half, couldn’t do much with the goal.
Rhyan Grant: 4.5
Disappointing game, and one which probably confirms his relegation to Fran Karacic’s back-up. Wasn’t able to totally contain the stylishly named Emilio Estevez in the first half, nor Chang-Lun Lin’s assist-bound run in the second, and made few attacking forays throughout.
His usual strategy in tight games – make a flanking run to the byline, receive a diagonal ball, and head it back into the box – never quite eventuated.
Trent Sainsbury: 7.5
Untroubled by the Taiwanese attack. No critical errors in his passing (72 of 77 passes made) and was clinical in front of goal when given the chance. Solid game, as expected.
Harry Souttar: 8.5
Despite all the homework head coach Vom Ca-nhum and the defence of Chinese Taipei would have done on the threat of Souttar in set pieces, he again rose above.
Scored the first and hit the bar soon after, thereby attracting more Taiwanese attention on corners, which freed Sainsbury up for his goal. Equally solid at the back, and in all likelihood has claimed a starting centre-back spot off Milos Degenek.
Curtis Good: 4.5
Great to see Curtis Good back in the green and gold. Last played at left-back ten years ago for Melbourne Heart – Graham Arnold was clearly scrambling for a backup fullback to give Aziz Behich a rest after Brad Smith’s injury – and it was quickly evident that the role wasn’t suited to him.
Played as best he could, striving to make overlapping runs and cross with his right from the left flank, but a performance to be disregarded, given the context.
Kenny Dougall: 7.5
Turned the ball over two or three times early on, but his passing was faultless thereafter. Toiled diligently, demonstrating patient play as the Socceroos were kept at bay by a stubborn defence. Who Arnold chooses out of he and James Holland for the Jordan fixture will be telling.
Denis Genreau: 7.5
Grew into the game, and with that, began to make more incisive passes and moves.
His stat line was an impressive one too, making 97 passes at 94 per cent. Genreau started deeper than his familiar play-maker role at Macarthur, thus showing a versatility hitherto unknown to Australian fans. Showed more than enough to prove his worth for the upcoming Olympics, presumably alongside…
Riley McGree: 8.5
Very impressive starting debut. Much like Ajdin Hrustic in the previous match, McGree endeavoured to provide the dribbling prowess to unlock the opposition defence.
The Birmingham City man was willing to take players on, probably to the detriment of one or two attacks, where the quick lay-off was available, but the intent was both appropriate and catalytic. Hit the post in the first half, too.
Brandon Borrello: 5
Still without an international goal, Borrello will be kicking himself for not converting a chance with an open net beckoning in the first half, after a saved shot off Maclaren.
In fairness, the horrid state of the pitch made the going tough for the midfield and wingers, and the subpar support from his left-back meant his runs were easily telegraphed, but Borrello will have wanted more than the one assist from tonight.
Jamie Maclaren: 6.5
Perhaps the biggest victim of the dodgy pitch, Maclaren was unable to get on the end of the grounded cut-backs and through balls he has become used to at Melbourne City.
His penalty was expertly earned and dispatched, but he’ll want to rectify his concerning knack of fading out of games – he completed only seven passes.
Mitchell Duke: 8
Found himself in the right spot to finish up on some nifty attacking forays to finish the 90 with a brace.
As A-League fans would know, Duke isn’t afraid to help out with the lead-up play, showcasing this against Chinese Taipei, despite their impressively structured defence.
Proved his worth as a clever attacking asset in the absence of Apostolos Giannou, and will be thrilled to bag his first international goals since the 2013 East Asian Cup.
Oozed confidence and class immediately from his introduction in the 74th minute. His name only grows.
Presented a threat in his half-hour cameo, but lacked the finishing touch again.
Fit seamlessly into Dougall’s role, not putting a foot wrong. The fact that McGree, Metcalfe and Genreau spent minutes together in the midfield probably indicates Arnold has one eye on the Olympics, with this stage of qualifying effectively complete.
When Mark Bosnich wants to see a player substituted on, that man is substituted on. The Israeli Premier League’s back-to-back golden boot winner exhibited a touch of class when accepting a beautifully weighted pass from Hrustic, and drawing out Taiwanese ‘keeper Shin-An Shih to present the grateful Duke with an empty net.
His six minutes on the pitch, as a defensive midfielder, were more tokenistic than instrumental, but he will nevertheless be proud to represent his adopted nation.