Peter FitzSimons has been called out by respected football commentator Simon Hill over his swipe at the Socceroos after their loss to France at the World Cup. Australia's campaign in Qatar got off to an awful start after they were thrashed 4-1 by the defending world champions on Tuesday.
The Socceroos' tactics came under fire in the aftermath of the loss, with Aussie greats Mark Bosnich and Harry Kewell critical of coach Graham Arnold. Some fans described the Socceroos' display as 'pathetic' and 'awful', but comments from former Wallabies player FitzSimons haven't gone down well with Hill.
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“When looking like lambs to the slaughter, isn’t there another way,” FitzSimons wrote in his newspaper column for the Sydney Morning Herald. “Wasn’t it time for the call of 'Sheepdog!' to go out, as in a version of Tommy Raudonikis’s famous 'Cattle dog!' call?”
FitzSimons also wrote on Twitter: “I know nothing about this game. But to my neophyte eyes, our blokes are way too tentative, and lacking urgency, yes? I sense desperation, but not the right kind? We don’t seem desperate to go at them?”
Hill, who has previously taken exception to criticism of Australian football from outside the sport, responded to FitzSimons on Twitter, writing: “Glad you asked, Peter. Thing is, we’re playing a very advanced football nation. Players who play for the best clubs in the world, a domestic league that has a TV deal worth $1.3bn (ours is a tenth of that), an academy (Clairefontaine) among the best in the world.
“They have 46 fully pro clubs, we have 11. Their govt & corporate sectors plough millions into football️, we feed on scraps. They had visionary ppl like Jules Rimet & Gabriel Hanot, and dedicated️ media (L’Equipe for one) to hold the game to account. We have none of those things.”
Hill described FitzSimons' comments as “depressing” considering he'd acknowledged he knew little about football. “Ave a go… I don’t know anything about the game…Tommy Raudonikis…soccer” Sigh,” Hill posted on Twitter. “Why are we STILL getting these sorts of 'analysis' pieces on the biggest sporting event on the planet?”
Hill added: “If you’re a general sports writer, shouldn’t you have at least a working knowledge of the biggest game on the planet?"
Hill took particular exception to the idea that the Socceroos should simply have upped the attacking ante against France. After Australia went up 1-0 early thanks to a Craig Goodwin goal, France turned the tide and left the Socceroos with little answers.
“That’s like saying how did you allow Mike Tyson to get so many punches in. Answer: because he was the world champion, the best & most brutal, and never more dangerous than when he’s copped one on the chin," Hill wrote.
FitzSimons responded on Friday, writing: “But you and I would last three seconds between us, against Mike Tyson. The Socceroos demonstrated in that first fifteen minutes against France that they could at least compete by being aggressive - as equally noted by Kewell, Bosnich, Foster et al. Are they wrong?
“That is precisely what it looked like to me - while recognising I have zero knowledge of the game. But it also was the seemingly universal view of the experts after the game”.
Socceroos looking to bounce back against Tunisia
The Socceroos have been forced into a defensive reshuffle for their crunch clash with Tunisia on Saturday night (9pm AEDT time), with Fran Karacic replacing an injured Nathaniel Atkinson. Atkinson has failed to recover from an ankle injury suffered against France after he was troubled by the ailment prior to arriving in Doha.
"He got a bit of a knock on the ankle again,"Arnold told reporters ahead of Saturday's match. "Fran Karacic will come in, we have got him ready for the game."
The Australians must win or draw against Tunisia at Al Janoub Stadium to maintain their chances of advancing from a World Cup group for the just the second time. The Socceroos are also likely to summon influential midfielder Ajdin Hrustic, who missed the opening game and hasn't played since copping an ankle injury in Italian club ranks on October 3.
Arnold said Hrustic is 95 per cent fit. But beyond Karacic's inclusion, he was reluctant to detail any other changes.
"He (Hrustic) trained well, he's recovering well, he's mentally and physically in good shape," Arnold said. "I don't think there will be too many changes, we have got to put our strongest line-up out.
"It will be very, very physical game. The Tunisians like a physical game and we have got to match that physical aspect."
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