One Year On | FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022: Tunisia v Australia

History is made as Socceroos record first ever World Cup clean sheet

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Milos Degenek fires up the boys pre-game versus Tunisia

 

Lead up

Moving into the game against Tunisia, it was important for the Subway Socceroos to maintain belief after the defeat to France.

Denmark and Tunisia drew 0-0 in their first match, so everything was still to play for, although a win was needed.

Head Coach Graham Arnold made that clear in the lead into the match as striker Mitch Duke explained.

“Graham Arnold approached everything so well, I think the way he spun the France game to make sure we didn't lose confidence, because it was a big loss at the end of the day,” he said.

“But he spun it to be like, you know, we did play the World Champions, we took it to them in the first 30 minutes.”

And Craig Goodwin added: “This is a very different game with Tunisia, they're not going to be the same as France, it's going to be more of a physical battle, and we knew that it was definitely going to be a fight.

“But we were ready and up for the fight.”

Kick off

So, Saturday, November 26 comes around and the Socceroos were back at the Al Janoub Stadium in front of 41,823 fans. However, this time, it felt like Tunisia were very much a home team.

Duke said: “The atmosphere was insane - the Tunisia fans were like whistling and shouting the whole match, which set an amazing atmosphere and an atmosphere professionals want to play in front of as well.”

The only change to the Australian squad for this match was at right back as Fran Karacic started ahead of Nathaniel Atkinson after he sustained an ankle injury.

The first fifteen minutes were tense, as neither side wanted to make an early slip up. The atmosphere too probably played a part in the cagey opening.

The goal, the celebration

The game came to life in the 23rd minute as Mitch Duke sent Australia in front with a peach of a header and with it created one of the most memorable moments from the World Cup.

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.

This silenced the largely dominating Tunisia crowd as the Aussie fans in Qatar and Australia went wild, and the celebration that followed from Duke was truly iconic.

“It's however many months after the World Cup now and I still watch it back before I'm going into like competitive matches for my club football,” Duke said.

“It was just an amazing moment, amazing goal.”

It wasn’t an easy chance to take though, as Duke explains: “Even though it was deflected, I just adjusted my body and it's one of those things, I think if I tried to do that header 10/20 more times, I'm probably not hitting it as well.

“But it's just one of those things in that moment, I've hit it perfectly, exactly how I wanted to, and the keeper couldn't even get a touch on it as it hit the side netting.”

And that celebration? Well, it was inspired by Duke’s son.

“I remember speaking to my son, and we're talking about my goal celebration that we wanted to share, he told me the goal celebration, I said ‘I'll definitely make sure I score a goal at some point during the tournament’, wouldn’t have figured it to be the next game,” he added.

“That was also probably one of the highlights of my career, being able to share that moment with my son.”

The story behind Mitch Duke's goal celebration

Mammoth defensive effort

Before half time Tunisia created chances to score but the backline stood tall with Souttar and Kye Rowles both making impressive blocks. Half time, the score remained 1-0.

It was more of the same in the second period as Tunisia pushed higher in search of an equaliser.

It perhaps should have been 2-0 to Australia though as in the 71st minute when substitute Jamie Maclaren broke down the left wing before cutting the ball across the goal to Leckie who was inches away from connecting into an open net. So close.

The Tunisia pressure almost paid as in the 86th minute as Taha Yassine Khenissi pounced on the ball after a poor clearance at the back. Socceroos fans hearts sank as the striker sprinted towards the box.

No fear though as Souttar was able to pull off what some would say was the tackle of the tournament. Well, Australian fans will at least.

Irvine said on the tackle: “There's not many moments in football where a tackle can be as memorable as a goal, and that's one of them.

“It's a huge, huge moment in the game, huge moment in the context of the group. Perfectly timed, perfectly executed.”

Thomas Deng added: “I was right at the end of the bench when that through ball was played, and I knew that H (Harry) was going to make a big tackle.

“When he made that challenge, it was unreal. You saw the whole bench, just stand up and was so happy at that time.”

But Souttar insisted he was just doing his job within the team and was quick to point out the surge of defenders racing back to help.

“I remember watching it back and then actually realising there was already five of our lads in the box to defend the situation and there wasn't one of their players,” he said.

“So, if I wasn't there, I think there was Aziz (Behich), Kye (Rowles), Jacko (Irvine), Aaron (Mooy), and Milos (Degenek). So yeah, that whole five second clip sums up the culture and what we identify as a squad.”

That tackle almost took the wind out of Tunisia’s sails as they began to realise this Australia team had decided they weren’t conceding this match.

History makers

The full time whistle sounded. 1-0. Australia had recorded their first ever clean sheet in a World Cup match. History makers.

The win also answered a lot of questions about the Socceroos squad. Yes, they were good enough. Yes, Graham Arnold’s squad selection was correct. Yes, they had the fight and determination to win.

Cameron Devlin said: “I thought that whole game we just showed what Aussies are all about.

“Fighting for every ball and even when things weren't going our way, we just showed that side of us that all Aussies have and that is just determination and the will to just win every moment.”

The three points took Australia into second place in the group behind France, as the reigning champions defeated Denmark 2-1.

That just left the match with Denmark, where Australia had all the control over the situation – win and they were through. Not an easy task against the then ranked 16th best side in the world.