Australia achieved the honourable loss we were looking for against Argentina and the genius of Lionel Messi. The 2-1 score line does not detail all the chances, twists and turns, in the game with the last ten minutes building up to a crescendo of end-to-end chances by both sides.
Some would be excused to question if we actually played the whole game like we played in the second half and “rolled the dice” earlier. We may have secured a different result but others will say football is never that simple, and the tactical complexities of an international match are many and diverse.
Australia sat back absorbed the pressure and gave possession to the Argentinians until the inevitable occurred in the 35th minute when the little master Lionel Messi opened the scoring with a quick half chance in the box which looked too easy with a side foot shot going past Matt Ryan and the score line stayed that way to finish off the half.
The 2nd half blunder by Matt Ryan who attempted to play out and thus exposed himself to being picked off by Alvarez who calmly passed the ball into an empty net, ironically brought the game to life as Australia had little choice but to throw more resources forward.
On came Hrustic, Goodwin and Kuol to liven up the game and it worked. The last 25 minutes was a fight toe-to-toe as Messi, enjoying more freedom displayed his master dribbling and attacking flair – that will long live in the memories of not only supporters, but the Socceroos players that were privileged play against him.
How Argentina didn’t score comes down to some excellent glove work by Matt Ryan and some near misses by the Argentineans. On the other end, a Goodwin deflection shot in the 77th minute gave us hope. The last 15 minutes of the game will long live in the memories of Australians as we attacked Argentina with everything we had.
The winding run by Behich stopped by a world class lunging tackle as he was about to pull the trigger, and the last minute chance in the box by the 18-year-old Kuol saved desperately by Martinez to close out the game, will leave a bitter-sweet memory for the players and supporters of the green and gold.
It shows what our former coach Ange Postecoglou always said “Attack with courage and purpose against the best as fortune only rewards the bold” as the tale of two halves clearly showed.
Congratulations to Graham Arnold and his team. He did restore the Australian DNA with a second round qualification, and an honourable loss to Argentina. It wasn’t always consistent, as we struggled with counter attacking low block football to more positive football, nevertheless we came away with restored reputations .
Peter Kokotis is a former-football agent and administrator and current football youth director of South Melbourne FC.