For all the toil and dominance, our destiny is in the lap of the Gods. While Peru’s 1-0 defeat to France has eliminated them, we need to topple the South Americans and ask France to do the same of Denmark – and obtain a superior goal difference.
All possible, of course. And it will be wonderful if Australia does qualify for the second round. But the Socceroos were centimetres away from twisting the knife into Denmark. Then we wouldn’t have needed France’s help – we could have done it ourselves.
Here’s the bottom line: we don’t lack belief that we can fight. But we may lack the conviction needed to win.
Your hearts burst with pride for the national team when you see them take on the world’s 12th best team and dominate the play. But the scoreboard doesn’t lie. Two games, one point, zero goals from open play. There’s a bridge of ruthlessness we are still to cross.
It’s partially a question of raw quality, of course, but we also lack a little something between the ears. We don’t quite seize the moment.
Pleasingly, after copping a sucker punch early, the Australian team fought back. And we loved it. They had Denmark on the ropes. As the Socceroos’ reined blow upon blow on the Europeans, we all waited for the king hit that never came.
Indeed, if it was a boxing match, it was a points win for the Socceroos in a bout that went the distance. But the initial pride soon gives way to reflective frustration. This is where the great nations – which aspire to be – hold themselves to a higher level.
Twice in this tournament we have held the upper hand in the final 15 or so minutes against top shelf opposition, which just goes to show how fine the margins are.
Annoyingly, there’s been moments like this before now. We went so close in South Africa; closer than most of us remember. In Brazil, we pushed Chile and led the Netherlands 2-1, before fading away. Regrets? We’ve got a few. Let’s not let them mount.
Credit given where credit is due – after the game it was the players who recognised the fact. They seemed to accept that this was the one that slipped through their fingers.
The mixed zone, where players and journalists converge after the game, was filled with glum looking players. Tom Rogic, Aaron Mooy and Robbie Kruse wouldn’t talk to the media. Those who did were still trying to figure out how they didn’t find an extra goal.
So maybe that’s the silver lining, more than the draw that keeps our flickering hopes alive. The players themselves aren’t content with the near misses.
Even Daniel Arzani, whose energy ignited the game, almost blamed himself for not converting a chance. But at his age, this was a staggering performance. If he becomes the player we all hope he does, Qatar 2022 could be his moment to shine.
He will surely play a bigger role against Peru. He has to. His brief cameo was enough to have Danish press fluttering about the teenager. His days in the A-League suddenly look numbered.
It’s still a line-ball game whether Australia goes through. On what we’ve seen so far, they certainly have the heart, spirit and hunger.
But if the chances fall our way on the final match day, our boys must be prepared to ruthlessly finish the job.