The Roar
The Roar

Advertisement

'I'm over it': Arnie's anger that sparked Socceroos WCQ rout, Goodwin 'stole the night' as Yengi off the mark

Autoplay in... 6 (Cancel)
Up Next No more videos! Playlist is empty -
Replay
Cancel
Next
Editor
26th March, 2024
85
2094 Reads

One down 49 to go. Socceroos striker Kusini Yengi raised some eyebrows this week when he declared himself to be the talisman striker the nation has craved since the retirement of Tim Cahill.

“It will be me. I’m a confident kid. I back myself and believe in my abilities,” said Yengi in response to questions about the Cahill succession. On Tuesday he got his first Socceroos goal two minutes into the 5-0 World Cup qualification win over Lebanon that secured Australia’s passage to the next stage untroubled.

While Yengi got his breakthrough, the game was bossed by irrepressible Graig Goodwin, Yengi’s former Adelaide teammate, who scored two and had one assist and should have had at least one more. The pair celebrated the goal together in a beautiful and promising moment for the national team.

“He assisted my first goal in the A-League and now he’s assisted my first goal for the Socceroos,” Yengi said. “He’s an amazing player.”

“He stole the night,” said former Socceroo Luke Wilkshire on 10, of Goodwin’s performance.

“He came in, he made all the difference. And for me he was the man of the match.”

Graham Arnold added: “Goody’s just got such great calmness in front of goal and such good delivery.”

At least Yengi is dreaming big – even if there is a massive gulf between his nascent national team career and that of the man who scored 50 goals in 108 games – including memorable strikes in three different World Cups.

Advertisement
Kusini Yengi of Australia celebrates with team mates after scoring a goal during the FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifier match between Australia Socceroos and Lebanon at GIO Stadium on March 26, 2024 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Kusini Yengi of Australia celebrates with team mates after scoring a goal during the FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifier match between Australia Socceroos and Lebanon at GIO Stadium on March 26, 2024 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Yengi has been prolific for Portsmouth in recent weeks, scoring four times in his last seven games, including a Panenka penalty earlier this month – another clear sign of a healthy level of confidence.

His debut Socceroos goal was far from a classic. It came within two minutes in Canberra as Goodwin delivered a peach of a left foot cross from wide on the left. Yengi met it on the half volley. He couldn’t miss, but almost did – the ball hit a post and then back onto his shin before it settled in the net.

Goodwin missed the win over the same team last week with a virus. He recovered brilliantly and his energy was infectious – and he produced arguably his best performance in a Socceroo shirt.

“I was sick, so I only had a couple of training sessions before the game, but I spoke with the boss and it felt good and he chucked me in,” Goodwin said.

Advertisement

“There was still a little bit of, let’s say sloppiness within the performance, but there was more cutting edge in the final third, so that was really positive.”

He should have had a second assist right before halftime when a delicious cross with the outside of his boot left the Lebanon defence reeling. Harry Souttar rose well enough but his header skimmed the outside of the post.

The Socceroos might have been out of sight at the break – Connor Metcalfe blew an outstanding opportunity when played in one-on-one with the keeper – but went in with a 1-0 lead, as they had last week.

But the second half was less than two minutes old when Goodwin sparked a second. His curling freekick was headed on by Souttar. Lebanon goalkeeper Mostafa Mattar parried the attempt into a teammate and the ball dribbled across the line.

Goodwin then added a sublime third. Ajdin Hrustic dinked a through ball towards the top of the box and Goodwin took it under control then crashed a volley across the keeper and into the side netting.

Hrustic, who had missed the Socceroos’ previous 11 matches through injury before coming on as a substitute in Sydney last week, was badly hacked down by a clearly frustrated Alee Tneich, three minutes after the third goal.

Advertisement

The Lebanese player was lucky to escape a red card after raking his studs down the back of Hrustic’s leg and the Socceroo cut a dejected figure as he was helped from the field.

“We saw how much pain he was in,” said Wilkshire. “He’s been through a tough time. To see that happen is devastating for him and the Socceroos.”

His removal opened the door for Patrick Yazbek – a player coveted by Lebanon who has chosen the Socceroos – to make his debut and the firsts kept coming.

One of Yazbek’s first contributions was to tee up John Iredale for his first-ever Socceroos goal in his second international, with Iredale close to tears after turning the ball in from close range.

Diminutive Josh Nisbet, all 1.60m of him, also got on for his debut as Graham Arnold made sweeping changes with 25 minutes to play.

Advertisement

Goodwin, though, stayed on to torment the visitors and he arrived at the back post, almost untroubled to tap in a fifth. Arnold and his men were criticised for failing to smash Lebanon in Sydney last week. That won’t be an issue in the wake of this one-sided romp.

Arnold admitted he was frustrated when he went to the sheds at the break.

“We showed them some clips,” said Arnold. “We should have been up 3-0 or 4-0, and game’s over, and we’re letting the opposition stay in the game. 

“This is the whole thing I’ve been saying to the boys for quite a while now – we need to raise our standards. We do great against top opposition, and we probably don’t win, and I’m over it. I want to win.”

The Socceroos are guaranteed a berth in third-round qualifiers which start in September, where a top-two finish in a six-team group will carry them to the 2026 showpiece tournament.

close