Football fans have lashed out at FIFA for allowing Sunday's friendly match between the Socceroos and Mexico to go ahead on a pitch that looked nowhere near up to international standard. The Socceroos let a two-goal lead slip against Mexico at the AT&T Stadium in Texas, with the World No.12 scoring a second half brace to snatch a 2-2 draw.
Most of the talk before kick-off centred around the state of the pitch inside the billion-dollar stadium that is normally home to NFL giants, the Dallas Cowboys. The artificial turf the two sides were playing on resembled something more like a badly crafted patch-work quilt.
Square sections of grass appeared to be unevenly stitched together in various shapes, sizes and designs, with viewers wondering how the pitch was given the all-clear from footballing authorities to host an international friendly. Speaking about the state of the pitch before the match, former Socceroo Luke Wilkshire suggested on Channel 10 it was simply unacceptable.
“I’m not having it at international level. We shouldn’t be playing on it in this day and age,” Wilkshire said. The situation could have contributed to an injury to Jackson Irvine, with the Socceroos midfielder rolling his ankle on the artificial turf and needing to be stretchered off late in the game.
Fortunately, Socceroos coach Graham Arnold confirmed the injury to Irvine was not too serious. "Because of the unbelievable facility that we're in, we've already had an x-ray and he's OK," Arnold said after the game. "It's just a rolled ankle. Bit of swelling on it, no doubt he'll be injured for a couple of weeks but he's fine."
Arnold spoke about the pitch before the game but denied it would be an "excuse" for his team. "It’ll be different...but some of the boys play on that at clubland in Europe so we remove that as an excuse." Arnold's view was not widely shared by fans though, with many describing the pitch as "disgraceful", particularly as America are one of the hosts of the next men's World Cup in 2026 - alongside Canada and Mexico.
— Mick Attarian (@pmens72) September 10, 2023
— Trevor T (@trevajct) September 10, 2023
When I spoke to Ross Aloisi the other day, he said the artificial pitch at Edensor Park was one of the toughest he’s ever dealt with.
I reckon this one in Arlington must be a whole lot tougher. Looks diabolical.#Socceroos
— Mike Tuckerman (@Mike_Tuckerman) September 10, 2023
This pitch is absolutely atrocious. It’s really affecting the quality of the football. It’s not a competition, but it’s certainly competitive. We demand better @FootballAUS for the @Socceroos #MEXvAUS
— J (@jcotteri) September 10, 2023
Well let’s see how the Socceroos go against Mexico in Dallas TX. That means it’s pretty much a Mexican home game. It’s bloody hot too. Tough conditions to play in. Synthetic pitch looks shit too. To not play on proper grass is an absolute joke.
— Skippy Johnston 🦘 (@LukeAFoley) September 10, 2023
Congrats on possibly the worst pitch in football history
— RealScienceMinister (@TheWeirdOne77) September 10, 2023
Socceroos coach sees positives in Mexico draw
Arnold said the 2-2 draw would serve as a good learning experience for his side after two major defensive lapses allowed the Mexicans a way back into the contest. Harry Souttar headed home a Martin Boyle corner in the 16th minute to give Australia the lead, with Boyle then turning goal-scorer from the penalty spot after Mexico's Santi Gimenez missed his own spot-kick in the 54th minute.
Raul Jimenez responded with a penalty for Mexico in the 69th minute when debutant Cam Burgess fouled Uriel Antuna after Mat Ryan opted not to come off his line to clear the danger from a long ball. The Mexicans then restored parity in the 84th minute when Souttar ducked under what should have been a regulation defensive header, allowing Cesar Huerta to nip in between the centre-back and Ryan to fire home the equaliser.
Arnold did stress that the bounce of the ball on the artificial turf in Texas was a contributing factor. "Honestly, I've already looked at the goals conceded," he added. "If it was on normal grass, both of those balls would have gone through to Maty Ryan or out."
The Socceroos next face England at Wembley on October 14, ahead of their World Cup qualifying fixtures and January's Asian Cup. The Socceroos coach says there's plenty of positives for him to take out of the match against Mexico.
"I'm very proud of the boys, the way that we played. We did very well," Arnold said. A couple of mistakes again - when you play against top nations, and let's not forget we played against the No.12 in the world in Mexico, we make those mistakes and you learn from them. No disrespect to a lesser opposition, but if we played against lesser opposition, we wouldn't have got punished the way we did."
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.