Mat Ryan would have been forgiven for curling up in a ball on the turf after his unfortunate blunder in Australia’s loss to Argentina on Sunday morning.
Argentina’s 2-1 victory knocked the Socceroos out of the World Cup in the round of 16, ending their fairytale run that surpassed the efforts of the 2006 squad.
But it might have been a different story if it wasn’t for Ryan’s error early in the second half.
The Socceroos were searching for an equaliser after Lionel Messi’s sublime goal opened the scoring for Argentina.
Looking to build from their own half, Ryan passed the ball to Aziz Behich, who played it on to Kye Rowles. The Argentinians pressed up hard and Rowles retreated, passing back to Ryan.
But instead of launching the ball out of danger, the Socceroos goalkeeper decided to take on Argentinian duo Rodrigo De Paul and Julian Alvarez with the ball at his feet.
The gamble backfired as the ball spilled to Alvarez, who turned and rolled the ball into the vacant goal.
“Utter despair for the Socceroos. Argentina have had little opportunities and we gifted them a goal,” former Socceroos Luke Wilkshire said in commentary for SBS.
“Decision making there for Maty Ryan, should have let the ball go. Tries to dribble out with it. Been pickpocketed and punished yet again.”
Craig Foster added: “This is a ball back to Maty when he’s drawing the pressure. So from here, the ball goes, you want to play forward.
“He plays back. Now the press is coming. And so for Maty Ryan you don’t need to take a touch. That’s the moment you need to decide, that’s just decision making.
“I have said many times and I will say again, I would rather we make the mistake doing this and continuing to play in this way, rather than just getting rid of the ball all the time. “Mistakes do happen, (even) the top keepers in the world, Maty Ryan’s had a unbelievable tournament.”
Rubbing salt into the wound, Ryan was taunted on social media by the man who has overtaken him as the first choice goalkeeper for his club side FC Copenhagen.
After Ryan made the error, Kamil Grabara tweeted: “Must have been politics, for sure”.
CODE Sports reports the tweet is in reference to reports Copenhagen gave Grabara back his starting spot, relegating Ryan to the bench, after overcoming an injury because the Pole is a preferred option due to his transfer worth being greater than the Australian.
“Not surprised, really. His opinion doesn’t really concern me,” Ryan told CODE when asked about his club teammate’s petty tweet.
Ryan’s mistake gifted Argentina a 2-0 lead and all but snuffed out any hope the Socceroos had of levelling the scores and taking the game to extra time.
After Craig Goodwin’s strike deflected in for a goal, it meant Ryan’s blunder was effectively the difference in the final 2-1 score line.
It was a disappointing moment for Ryan, who had excellent performances in the group stage against Tunisia and Denmark and led the Socceroos well as captain.
The omission of in-form goalkeeper Mitch Langerak from Australia’s World Cup squad raised eyebrows on the eve of the tournament.
But apart from the mistake against Argentina, Ryan had a strong tournament in goals for Australia.
There was some late hope for the Socceroos when Aziz Behich made a dazzling run from halfway into the box and it was only some last-ditch defending that blocked his shot.
Australia had one final chance to force extra time with just seconds remaining when the ball fell fortuitously to Garang Kuol. But his shot was expertly saved by the Argentina keeper.
It wasn’t to be. Despite a historic tournament, the Socceroos might be left wondering what might have been.
Midfielder Jackson Irvine was in tears after the loss but he can rest assured that the Socceroos have certainly done Australia proud.
Story Credit: news.com.au