2019 review: the best Caltex Socceroos moments of 2019
2019 began with a testing Asian Cup campaign and ended with a faultless run of World Cup Qualifiers in a year of defining moments for the Caltex Socceroos.
The year was bookended by two games against Jordan; the first was a 1-0 loss in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019™, but the second was a 1-0 victory – Australia’s first ever away win against Jordan – which propelled the Caltex Socceroos to the top of their 2022 World Cup qualifying group.
In between their two clashes with Jordan the Caltex Socceroos played a number of important games, which unearthed new stars, solidified the reputations of established ones, and got the Caltex Socceroos well on the way to a fifth-successive World Cup campaign.
Read on as we recount the five most memorable moments of the year!
Rogic strikes stoppage time winner over Syria
The Caltex Socceroos came up against Syria in the final game of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019™ group stage with only a point needed to ensure their progression to the knockout phase.
But what ensued was an enthralling game which ultimately ended 3-2 in favour of Australia thanks to an emphatic winner struck by Tom Rogic deep into stoppage time.
Awer Mabil got Australia rolling in the first half with a beautiful left-footed strike which nestled into the top left corner of the net, but in the blink of an eye Syria were down the other end to score an instant equaliser through an Omar Khrbin strike from close range.
Perth Glory’s Chris Ikonomidis put the Caltex Socceroos back in front in the second half but Syria refused to say die, and found their way back into the game once more via a penalty, when it appeared Omar Al Soma tripped over his own teammate in the box.
The Syrian attacker got to his feet, picked up the ball and dispatched it into the net from the spot to make it 2-2, but the action wasn’t over yet.
Step forth Rogic, who was found by Ikonomidis in acres of space on the tip of the box.
The ‘Wizard of Oz’ took a touch on his left and hammered a sizzling strike from long range into the back of the net in the 93rd minute of the game, to seal all three points for Australia in a see-sawing game full of enthralling action.
Penalty shootout win over Uzbekistan sends Australia to Asian Cup Quarter Finals
The Caltex Socceroos couldn’t find a way past goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov in 120 minutes of their Asian Cup Round of 16 clash with Uzbekistan, so it was up to Maty Ryan to become the hero of a memorable penalty shootout.
It was a gruelling battle at Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium between two sides equally reluctant to concede, and so when a penalty shootout beckoned Ryan stepped up to leave his mark on the cup competition.
Mark Milligan took the first spot kick of the shootout and duly converted, but Uzbekistan struck back through Otabek Shukurov to level the scores.
Then, Caltex Socceroos defender Aziz Behich was spared his blushes after his missed penalty was backed up by Islom Tukhtakhujaev’s failed attempt with Uzbekistan’s next shot from the spot.
The tense battle continued as Robbie Kruse and Apostolos Giannou scored for Australia before Ryan pulled off a stunning save down to his right to deny Marat Bikmaev, handing Mathew Leckie the chance to send the Caltex Socceroos to the Quarter Finals.
And he did just that, with a brutal finish into the left side netting which sent the Caltex Socceroos into a dizzying frenzy of celebration.
Australia get their World Cup Qualifying campaign off to a flyer
The Caltex Socceroos began their long qualification campaign for FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ in September, and showed their intent right from the get go, securing an assertive 3-0 win over Kuwait on the road.
It’s a campaign in which the Caltex Socceroos are still unbeaten in having taken 12 points from their four qualifiers in 2019, and the 3-0 win over Kuwait was the all-important kick-start the campaign needed as a Leckie brace and Aaron Mooy wonder strike led Australia to victory.
Leckie scored his two goals in the first half hour of the game, combining with Jackson Irvine on both occasions to score an opportunistic double.
Leckie’s goals gave the Caltex Socceroos a confidence booster as they began to assert themselves on the contest, and if the result wasn’t wrapped up already it most certainly was when Mooy stepped forward eight minutes after to score a goal of his own of the highest order.
Adam Taggart fed the ball out to Mooy lurking on the edge of the box, and with the ball and defenders both coming toward him at some pace the Brighton & Hove Albion midfielder struck a first-time curler toward goal.
The craftsmanship behind the goal was a sight to behold as Mooy’s perfect balance on the strike made the ball sail directly into the top corner.
It was Mooy’s first international goal in more than three years, the third and final strike of the game and the highlight of a confident display which has set the tone for Australia’s faultless qualification run in 2019.
Full house in Canberra on hand as Arnold unveils secret weapon Souttar
Australia’s 5-0 crushing of Nepal in Canberra was special in more ways than one as rangy centre back Harry Souttar made one of the most memorable Caltex Socceroos debuts of all time.
The 198cm giant towered over his Nepalese opponents as he scored two goals on debut, showcasing his aerial threat and the potential to become a star in Graham Arnold’s new-look national side setup.
His first goal came from a Craig Goodwin corner, which Souttar willed himself toward through a maze of bodies to head home his first goal in green and gold, before his heavily deflected effort on the hour mark gave him a second in an unforgettable debut performance.
It was the Caltex Socceroos’ only home game of 2019 and more than 18,000 fans flocked to GIO Stadium to watch it unfold as Souttar’s two goals and a Jamie Maclaren hat-trick guided Australia to their second win of their FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ qualifying campaign.
Historic win over Jordan ends 2019 on a high
The Caltex Socceroos had never won a game away to Jordan, but as they travelled to Amman in November Arnold’s squad had every intention of breaking that duck, and Adam Taggart’s first half strike proved to be all they needed to get it done.
With Jordan breathing down their necks in the race for FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ qualification Arnold’s side were desperate to notch a fourth win out of four games in the campaign to go into a commanding position atop of Qualifying Group B.
The Caltex Socceroos began the clash at King Abdullah II Stadium in fine form when Rogic slid a ball through the Jordan defence to Taggart who sized up the goals and squeezed a shot over the outrushing Amer Shafi to score the first and only goal of the game.
Australia wasted chances to consolidate their lead in the first half and instead had to rely on a herculean performance from Ryan and the defensive line in the second stanza.
A number of Jordanian shots slipped just wide of the post but any shot they did put on target Ryan was on hand to bat away as Jordan pushed and pushed for an equaliser.
Sydney FC full back Rhyan Grant put in a solid shift in Australia’s defensive line, as he became the only Caltex Socceroo to play in all 10 games in the calendar year, and just as he started 2019 playing against Jordan, Grant ended the year facing the same opponent.
The Caltex Socceroos clung on for dear life as the seconds ticked away and eventually the final whistle blew, handing Australia their first away win over Jordan, their fourth win in as many games on the road to FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, and a fantastic end to 2019 which lays the foundations for an even bigger 2020.