The Qantas Socceroos will clash with what former Socceroos skipper Paul Wade believes will be a desperate Saudi Arabian side on 29 February.
The Qantas Socceroos will clash with what former Socceroos skipper Paul Wade believes will be a desperate Saudi Arabian side on 29 February. Underestimation would be a mistake says Wade, who also remembers playing in a famous first clash between the two, way back in 1988.
The scene was the Bicentennial Cup and as far as small tournaments go, this one was a cracker, Australia were lining up against the likes of the top-ranked side in the world, Brazil, the then World Cup holders Argentina and the Asian Cup Champions, Saudi Arabia.
It was the game against Saudi Arabia that set the Socceroos on a surprising streak of great performances, and it-s one Wade remembers most fondly.
“We had come off a 1-0 loss to Brazil heading into that game, but to get the 3-0 win over Saudi Arabia was something special,” Wade said.
“That whole tournament was built around the Bicentennial, but it served as a great preview for what we were going to experience in Seoul at the Olympic Games.
“Argentina were the reigning World Cup champions, Brazil were No 1 in the world and Saudi Arabia were the Asian Cup Champions, there was some really quality out there so for us to get a result like we did after being beat 1-0 by Brazil, that match with the Saudis was no friendly, we got one big scalp on that day.
“It was going to be physical and it was going to be us or them, we only got beat 1-0 by Brazil on a very ordinary surface and while the surface was horrible again, the ball could bobble anyway you like but we took our chances and got the victory.”
The Australian side took the victory in style and despite netting three times it-s something Wade never imagined the team would do with Abdullah Al Deayea standing between the posts for Saudi Arabia.
“Probably the biggest name in their team was Abdullah Al Deayea,” recalled Wade.
“He was rated one of the best goalkeepers in the world, when you can stick three past one of, if not the very best keeper in the world you are doing something very special.” Prolific national league striker Scott Ollerenshaw, actually got a rare International goal that day and it was certainly one of the more memorable from Wade-s perspective.
“Scott was a great character and whilst we were always taking the mickey out of him, when he scored that goal we were excited.
“It was a terrific run from what I can remember he beat two or three of them and then slotted it.”
The win over Saudi Arabia was of course just a taste of what was to come and Wade believes it was a catalyst for one of Australia-s greatest footballing moments, the 4-1 demolition of World Champions Argentina.
“We were all part-time footballers and we all had jobs, so to get a result like the win over the Saudis was a big tick in our favour and it helped us ahead of the Argentina game,” he said.
“Argentina were the reigning World Champions, and they had some real quality in their side. Their national team coach was there and a few of the really high-profile players, sure there was no Maradona but I think the whole world took notice on that occasion.
“The sad thing is I think there were only 19,000 people at the SFS that night and they missed one of the best goals scored by a Socceroo when Charlie Yankos belted one from 35 yards.
“Martin Tyler was shocked, but I think you could tell from his voice on commentary that he was thoroughly enjoying himself and some real quality goals, I guess the only one that wasn-t was the one that I scored when I tapped in from two yards.”
While the first win over Saudi Arabia was the catalyst for future wins, the same might be said if the current Qantas Socceroos can send the Saudis packing at the group stage of the current qualification campaign. Despite the Saudis FIFA ranking, Wade thinks it will be far from easy for the current side.
“I wouldn-t put much stock in the numbers on FIFA-s website. The great thing about football today is I don-t think that anyone takes any game less serious than the next and that will be the case for our boys against Saudi Arabia,” Wade said.
“This Saudi team will be desperate, they are on the brink and I would hate to be in a Socceroo team anytime that is playing against a team that is desperate.
“There is a difference between trying hard and being desperate and a lot of the time that-s why desperate teams get results, this is going to be a desperate Saudi side coming here.
“The Saudis won-t give the ball back easily, one thing they do is knock the ball around and the worst case scenario for us is that we sit back and give them opportunities to get within striking distance because they will have a crack from anywhere and are not afraid to try.
“Our boys have to go out there with a really positive attitude, we should be desperate, we should not sit back and be content to counter-attack. That-s in a perfect world, I-m not the coach so I don-t know the players intimately, but I think the best thing we could do is be attacking and go forward.”
As for what the team might look like Wade believes it might be a slightly unheralded line-up, like the one back in 1988, not that he thinks that will matter, it might just make some Australian-based players much more hungry to do well.
“I can see the A-League boys playing a role in it, that wouldn-t have been the case a year ago, but a few are putting their hands up now and more importantly performing at that level,” Wade said
“If these are all A-League boys then, remember what it-s like to play in the A-League multiply it by ten and you might just find yourself in an international fight.”
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