One Year On | FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022: How Mitch Duke proved the haters wrong

Duke ‘proud’ to prove doubters wrong at Qatar World Cup


Out of contention

Mitchell Duke became a household name in Australia after his performances at the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

However, it was a long journey, filled with external doubt and judgement for Duke to persevere with.

He made his Socceroos debut against South Korea in July 2013 at the East Asian Cup, a tournament which he scored twice at.

Yet, a substitute appearance in a friendly against Brazil was the last time he put on the green and gold for six years.

“There was a very long gap in between drinks with the national team for me,” he said.

“That was obviously probably due to certain things, obviously, change of coaches and the position that I was playing. When I left Australia and went to Japan, I actually went to like a wingback role.”

He said it was hard to be skipped on selections, but he understood the reasons why.

“When Ange Postecoglou was in charge, I was still playing at a very good level J1, I was playing consistently, I was playing 30 plus games a year with them starting played, and everything like that.

“But I was probably in a position that they felt like well, we can't really select you because we see you as an attacker, but you're playing wingback for your club football.

“In those moments, you've got to just take that on the chin do what you do, club football is kind of where you set your life up anyway for your future.”

Duke opens the scoring against China


However, when Graham Arnold took over the national team in 2018, things changed.

“I was very happy to get the call up again, when Arnie took charge and I knew that was an opportunity, I had to make sure I earn the respect and earn my spot back in the national team,” Duke said.

“To kind of show that you know what, I'm a striker, I can do the job for the boys. And, you have got to show that in each camp that you get selected and make sure you're doing the job.”

Mitch Duke: I almost had a panic attack

World Cup selection

Duke played sixteen times for Australia from 2019 until it was time for World Cup squad selection for Qatar.

In that time, he had scored five goals, all of which came in the World Cup qualification campaign.

But still, there was doubts on whether he was the right man to lead the line in Qatar. Those doubts coming from fans and pundits alike. Duke did his best to ignore the noise.

“I'd been playing at J-League 2 going into the World Cup, which some people may question being like, ‘is that a good enough level for our national team starting striker?’,” he said.

“I saw plenty of doubters, haters or whatever you want to call them, people questioning my selection even in the squad, let alone starting.”

Mitch Duke | Man of the Match Press Conference | Tunisia v Australia


And he knew he wasn’t a shoe in for the selection after a recent form of several Australian strikers, however Duke felt he offered something different.

“We have amazing strikers in our ranks with Adam Taggart, Jamie McLaren, Jason Cummings now as well, very prolific goal scorers.

“I'm a very different brand of striker to them a lot more of a runner, physical kind of battler in that sense, but I think I had shown in the last few years that I can score the goals when needed, especially even for the national team.”

And Graham Arnold agreed with that sentiment, selecting Duke in the Socceroos squad for the competition. To which Duke was very thankful.

“I’m very, very thankful to Arnie for giving me that opportunity,” he said.

“I think like for me, I tried to spin it in a way of motivating me proving people wrong rather than being like, oh should I be here? Am I good enough?”

“These people in the right areas, like the head coach, believes I'm good enough to be here and select me. That's all the validation I needed.”

 Time to perform

So, Duke is selected in the squad and chosen to start in the opening match against reigning champions France.

He put in a workmanlike performance in the 59 minutes he played in that game, chasing every loose ball and competing well in the air.

This put him in the eleven for the Tunisia match where Duke truly showed his skillset by scoring an incredible goal.

In the 23rd minute, Craig Goodwin bombed down the left flank before drilling a cross into the middle which deflected into the path of Duke who glanced his header into the right corner away from the despairing dive of Tunisia’s keeper Aymen Dahmen.

Duke was elated with that goal. He said: “That feeling for a striker, especially for me to play in a World Cup, I was happy to play a minute at a World Cup, then let alone to score a goal.”

He added that it was the best feeling in the world: “To be in that moment to score that goal, that feeling was just the most insane, like euphoric - I couldn't even explain it.

“It's just like, adrenaline pumping through your veins, it was the best feeling in the world at that time and it's a very addictive feeling as well.”

Duke went on to start in the Denmark game and in the Round of 16 against Argentina. He led the line with power, pace and that determined Socceroos attitude that fans love.

Speaking after the tournament, Duke said: “I saw all the doubters for the World Cup, but I felt like after the Tunisia match, I think people started to value what I brought to the team a bit more.

“I felt that respect a bit more, and I guess, trust and support, which was good to see. Because I definitely saw plenty of the comments.”

Only nine Socceroos have ever scored at a Men’s World Cup, it is truly a list of Australian football greats. For Duke to be on the list, he is truly proud.

“For me I value and treasure every cap that I get, and I give everything for my country and hopefully people can appreciate that and support me,” he said.

“To be a part of a very, very small number of players that have scored at the World Cup is really special and to be a part of the history of Australian football is really special.”