Controversy has erupted in the wake of the Socceroos' 1-0 victory over Tunisia at the World Cup after fans noticed a telling detail in the lead-up to their winning goal. Mitch Duke found the back of the net for the Socceroos in the 23rd minute on Saturday night, with the goal proving the winner as the Aussies hung on for just their third win at the World Cup ever.
However fans were left questioning the validity of the goal after noticing a Tunisian player had tripped over the referee's foot in the lead-up. After Duke produced a sublime touch near halfway from a long ball from Harry Souttar, Riley McGree found some space and spread the ball wide to Craig Goodwin.
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Goodwin's cross then took a deflection before Duke produced a superb header that evaded the Tunisian keeper to give Australia the lead. Socceroos players and fans celebrated wildly in the aftermath, however some took to social media to highlight the controversy.
Many noticed that McGree was able to find space because Ellyes Skhiri had been inadvertently tripped up by German referee Daniel Siebert. Skhiri was attempting to cover McGree when he tripped on the referee's foot and was sent sprawling to the ground.
The Tunisian player got back to his feet and attempted to track back, but couldn't prevent Duke from scoring. Skhiri could be seen remonstrating with the referee in the aftermath of the goal, but there was nothing the official could do.
The referee must've had a bet on Australia as he "tripped" the Tunisian in the lead up to the Australian winning goal. Thanks ref ⚽️🏆🇦🇺👍 pic.twitter.com/wrHnRyilS0
— Con Panas (@CON_PANAS) November 26, 2022
Football rules state that a referee can halt play if they are struck by the ball. However there is no such stipulation for when a player accidentally collides with the official. Nevertheless, some fans were left fuming over the nature of the Socceroos' goal.
"If the ball hits the referee the game stops and gets restarted with an uncontested drop ball. You'd think it would be the same if a referee wipes a player out," one social media user wrote. Another fan commented "can't do that", while a third labelled the incident "shambolic".
I just saw that Australia goal. The referee tripped the Tunisian player whi was favourite to the ball, and the resulting break led to Australia scoring.
Isn't that even worse than the ball rebounding of the referee?#TUNAUS#FIFAWorldCup
— Peeves (@nomadHeadmaster) November 26, 2022
referee tripped my man
— Ayoub07 (@Ayoubxftbl) November 26, 2022
The rule for the ball is at discretion of match official not automatically
— James (@JamesW228) November 26, 2022
There's a Danish expression that says "Dommeren er en knold på banen" (The ref is a bump on the pitch), which both is a light-hearted insult of the ref as well as referring to the old rule that you play on, regardless of any impact with turf bump or ref by ball or players.
— UEFA Ranglister & Koefficientpoint 🇩🇰🇪🇺⚽️ (@UEFADK_point) November 26, 2022
lmao shush, the referee literally tripped our forward which led to you scoring, look at the stats pic.twitter.com/PG4sXjkjS5
— LocalSimp (@dont_at_me_plz) November 26, 2022
Can’t do that 😂😂
— James Capon (@Jcapon89) November 26, 2022
If the ball hits the referee the game stops and gets restarted with an uncontested drop ball. You'd think it would be the same if a referee wipes a player out. But then again I suppose the argument is the player isn't getting there.
— Sean Chater (@nufcsean) November 26, 2022
Surely play should stop and be restarted with a drop ball, same as if the ball hits the ref?
— Chris Gosling (@theboygosling) November 26, 2022
Socceroos on cusp of advancing at World Cup
Duke's goal has put Australia on the cusp of advancing to the knockout stages at the World Cup for just the second time. Currently sitting second in their group on three points, Australia will advance with a win or draw against Denmark on Wednesday (Thursday morning AEDT).
"It's the best moment of my life," Duke said after the game. The victory was Australia's first at the World Cup finals since they downed Serbia in 2010. They also beat Japan in 2006 - with that side the only in Australia's history to get past the group stage.
But coach Graham Arnold isn't celebrating yet, saying: "I just said to them (the players), no doubt the nation is extremely proud, but we have done nothing.
"You (players) have achieved something we can talk about after the tournament. But we're here to go as far as we can go. I don't want any celebration ... get ready for the next one."
Midfielder Jackson Irvine said following Arnold's edict and muting celebrations would be difficult. "I have got to acknowledge what we did and what a big deal it was ... and how big that is for me and how much it means for everybody else," he said. "But I have got to let it simmer and let it fire us again in four days' time."
The Socceroos kept a clean sheet at the World Cup for the first time since 1974, chiefly because of Harry Souttar. In just his third senior game since recovering from a knee reconstruction, Souttar was simply superb with a string of interceptions and blocks.
"We were hanging on for a little bit towards the end ... but I am just so pleased," Souttar said. "When the final whistle went, just the relief - all that hard work we have put in so far and over the qualification stages has come to that."
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