Graham Arnold had a simple message for his players after going ahead for the second time this World Cup.
The Socceroos took a surprise lead against world champions France in the opening game in Qatar, but was quickly overrun to lose 4-1.
Against Tunisia, the Socceroos did it again. Striker Mitchell Duke scored a magical header in a move that he started on the halfway with a deft touch.
Duke won the ball in the middle, before winger Craig Goodwin’s deflected cross found Duke’s head.
After going 1-0 up against France, the lead only lasted for 18 minutes. Remarkably it was still the longest Australia had ever led in a World Cup game.
But that record was broken, against Tunisia. Australia got to halftime one goal up, and then endured a painful 45 minutes against a desperate Tunisia.
But it was enough.
Defender Harry Souttar was a mountain in defence, while captain Mat Ryan was safe in goal.
After mistakes hurt Australia against France, there was no repeat in this game.
Arnold said his message was simple after the goal.
“I don’t think, I know, the next five minutes after a goal is scored is so important,” he said.
“You’ve got to continue playing, if you celebrate that goal emotionally, that’s when you can concede.
“It’s about keeping switched on with no celebration at all and going for the second goal straight away.”
Duke, speaking after the game, said Arnold had a simple message for his players at halftime.
“We wanted to have an aggressive approach and run them over,” Duke said
“The message from Arnie (after the goal) was the same one he gave at halftime – run yourself into the ground.”
“We’ll make five subs and those players will do the same when they come on.”
It’s hard to single out any individuals in one of Australia’s best performances at the World Cup.
Souttar and Kye Rowles were safe in defence, after being tormented against France.
Aaron Mooy was close to best on the ground, and won possession in some key moments in the second half as the pressure built.
The result could have been put beyond doubt in the 71st minute when a tantalising cross from Goodwin was almost met by a desperate Mathew Leckie.
Arnold’s substitutes against France came once the world champions had scored its third and fourth goals, but he didn’t wait this time.
Around the hour mark, after the Socceroos had fended off a 15 minute second half onslaught – Adjin Hrustic and Jamie Maclaren were brought on to freshen things up.
It is Australia’s first win at the World Cup since 2010, and puts the Socceroos into a position that seemed unlikely after the France loss.
Australia now has its destiny in its own hands, and can guarantee a spot in the final 16 with a win against Denmark.
Even a draw against Denmark could be enough, depending on the result between France and Denmark at 3am Sunday morning (AEDT).
Story Credit: news.com.au