The France 4 – Australia 1 score was no big surprise in the World Champions as superstars like Mbappe and Dembele ran our defence ragged. However, this defeat felt different to other defeats. Coming into the game after the miraculous comeback by Saudi Arabia over two-time World Cup winning giants Argentina the day before, I felt hopeful of another upset.
Our excitement levels reached fever pitch when Craig Goodwin opened the scoring to put Australia ahead after 20 minutes. Australia had an opportunity after that to go after France and take the game up to them, but they failed.
In any defeat of the past – under the working-class mad dog era of Frank Arok, or to the aristocrats of the Hiddink – there was always a strong presence of Socceroo DNA.
You walked away feeling proud of the performance and hopeful that there would be better days ahead.
This time I felt flat, defeated, and demoralised.
What was our DNA assessing that game?
I think the manner of the defeat hurt as it finished 4-1 but it could have been 7-1. We were outclassed but the failure not to push up the pitch and put pressure on France was extremely disappointing
Our lack of intent, the absence of aggression, and the dearth of ambition showed and the statistics back this failure. Australia enjoyed only 35 percent of possession and allowed France to have 44 touches inside the penalty area. That’s not the Australian way. We invited a heavy defeat and it came in a strong supply of goals.
When I think of great Australian teams I think of the 1991 and 1993 World Youth Teams, and the1992 Barcelona Olympics team, that reached the last four in all three competitions.
The 2006 Australian World Cup team made the last 16 and was heartbreakingly eliminated by eventual winners Italy by a last-minute penalty. Those times and those teams seem distant now. Lightyears.
How did we end up in this mess?
Junior Development is seen as an expense, not an investment unfortunately. It is getting harder to compete against Asia as they invest heavily into their football.
The disconnect between A League and the rest of Australian football is big. How long do we have to hear the investors in that League talking about protecting their investment?
They do not own the code. Football clubs are the foundations, yet in the Lowy era there was an attempt to destroy half century of old clubs and all the intel and football DNA of that history.
Kill the grocer, kill the diversity of the high street, and funnel the customers into a homogenised shopping centre, that was the strategy. In other words, kill the traditional clubs and get their supporters to become customers in the A League. The strategy that mitigated against traditional clubs and was a scorched earth policy.
How can one have a great, or a competitive national team without the grassroots? Japan have over 60 professional clubs, in several tiers of integrated leagues. The A League has 11 Australian and one NZ team and herein lies the problem.
The Socceroos now move into the Tunisia game, and I hope the talented new players like Awer Mabil and Gerang Kuol are inserted into that game earlier.
They must show us what they have. They are the future of Australian football. This crop of talented athletes from the African diaspora, and other sources of migration that make up Australia may give us the X factor we are so clearly lack.
Peter Kokotis former-football agent and administrator and current football youth director of South Melbourne FC.