The Socceroos have hit out at FIFA over the brutal scheduling at the World Cup that means they will face Argentina in a crunch round of 16 clash, just three days after the historic 1-0 win over Denmark. Matthew Leckie's goal in the 60th minute secured the Socceroos an incredible upset 1-0 victory that saw the Aussies advance to the knockout stages of the World Cup for just the second time.
Leckie's superb solo effort shocked the football world and helped the Socceroos join the famous 2006 side as the only Australian teams to make it out of the group stage at a World Cup. But the 2022 side have already gone one better than their 2006 counterparts, becoming the first Socceroos team to win two matches at a World Cup.
The victory for Graham Arnold's men set up a mouthwatering round of 16 clash with South American powerhouses Argentina, who advanced after a poor start to their own World Cup campaign. Needing a win against Poland, they bounced back from a Lionel Messi penalty miss and dominated the Europeans to secure a 2-0 win.
Goals from Enzo Fernandez and young star Julian Alvarez ensured Argentina advanced to the knockout stages as Group C winners. However, the brutal nature of the World Cup schedule in Qatar means both the Socceroos and Argentina will have just three days to prepare for the showdown on Sunday morning (AEDT).
Socceroos assistant coach Rene Meulensteen and defender Aziz Behich have both spoken out against the schedule, which saw teams enjoy four-day breaks between their group stage games. With one day less to prepare for Australia's do-or-die clash with Argentina, Meulensteen has taken aim at the logic behind FIFA's decision.
“The thing for me is, how can the FIFA organisation, for such a high prestigious tournament … the four-day turnovers were already short, you go through the group stage and then you make it even shorter?,” said Meulensteen, whose extensive resume includes first team coaching duties for Manchester United.
“So if you want a high quality performance in a World Cup …OK, it’s also the same for the other team I have to say that. But we’ve almost got no time to let it all sink in, enjoy it... it’s recovery, recovery, recovery. Really it will be about getting their brains ready, mentally ready for that match. But one thing I can tell you, we will be ready.’”
Socceroos focused on recovery ahead of Argentina match
The Socceroos have based themselves at the same high-tech training facility as tournament hosts Qatar - the $1.3b million Aspire Academy which includes a sports science hospital. Behich says it could work in Australia's advantage against heavyweights Argentina, but admits the nature of the brutal World Cup schedule means the Socceroos are likely to do little training between now and Sunday's game.
“There won’t be much training," Behich said. "We’re lucky we’ve got the facilities we’ve got... the federation’s (Football Australia) done well and the coaching staff to get us those facilities so it will just be about getting the body right and it will be similar to this last turnaround (between the Tunisia and Denmark games). We will analyse the opponent but right now it’s about enjoying tonight and we go again in the morning.”
Socceroos coach Arnold has refused to allow his squad to get too carried away with their wins over Tunisia and Denmark, and insisted their sole focus would be on the next game against Argentina.
“No celebrations, no emotion. Sleep. No social media...Just so proud of the effort by the boys. Short turnaround but their effort was incredible," Arnold said after the victory against Denmark.
“[It took] a lot of belief, a lot of hard work. These boys come in with a great mindset. We’ve been working on this for four and a half years. We have the belief, the energy and the focus. I could see in their eyes that they were ready tonight.”
Goalscorer Leckie also praised the effort from Australia having left their all out on the field for their country. "We always knew we could do it. We believed as a group," Leckie said. "We had our doubters. With our spirit, our belief, our work ethic and how close we are as a group, it shows on the pitch.
"That last 15, 20 minutes, we battled until the end. It didn't matter what they threw at us, we weren't conceding."
The FIFA World Cup 2022 is on SBS and SBS on Demand.
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