Socceroos great Mark Bosnich has unloaded on Aussie football in the wake of the nation's humbling 4-1 defeat to France at the World Cup in Qatar. The Aussies were not expected to beat the reigning world champions in their Group D opener, but the manner of the defeat has left many critics bitterly disappointed.
Craig Goodwin had given the Socceroos a dream start after lashing home Mathew Leckie's cross into the roof of the France goal in the ninth minute. However, that was as good as it got for Graham Arnold's men, who sat deep and allowed the likes of Kylian Mbappe to dictate proceedings.
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Mbappe inevitably got himself on the scoresheet, with goals from Adrien Rabiot and a brace from Olivier Giroud - who equalled Thierry Henry's all-time goals record for France - completing the rout for Les Bleus.
The scoreline was in fact flattering on the Socceroos, who could have conceded at least a couple more goals after failing to press France or shut down their time on the ball. Australia's reluctance to push forward and show positive initiative also came under fire from fans.
However, Bosnich said the footballing lesson handed to the Socceroos was not just down to the tactics employed by Arnold or the performance of the players. The iconic goalkeeper argued that Australia's footballing shortcomings were the result of a more widespread failure of the country's junior talent pathways.
The Socceroos legend said unlike the French team which overhauled its youth academies after failing to qualify for the 1990 World Cup, Australia has failed to similarly invest in its young talent. The lack of top class talent in Arnold's squad compared to Socceroos teams of the past, strengthens Bosnich's argument.
“The biggest question there is you’re seeing the result of people in France way back when they missed out in 1990 and they sat down and put together a massive plan," Bosnich said.
"You are seeing the results of that now, and you see the difference in the class and the quality. That’s the biggest question here. What is Australian football going to do in the future to see our players be like that one day?
“Five World Cup appearances are all well and good, but what? One last 16 place in over 100 years. So what are you going to do about that? That’s the biggest question.”
Current Celtic manager and former Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou shared similar concerns in 2018 before he famously quit his role before the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Postecoglou's attack-minded and proactive style was ultimately cast aside to disastrous effect as replacement Bert van Marwijk favoured a more pragmatic approach in Russia.
Postecoglou said in 2018: “In terms of development I think we’re going backwards to be honest. Unfortunately, from my days as national coach we’re going backwards – in terms of we don’t see it as an investment, we see it as an expense.
"We just have too short-term thinking, there just aren’t enough people with a broader vision as to how we can actually make Australia a force in world football.“
Socceroos great and respected football analyst Craig Foster also lamented in 2018 that the Aussies had learned little from their failed World Cup campaign in 2014, with the France thrashing in Qatar ushering a sense of deja vu for the Aussies.
“In my view, we haven’t learnt from the last four years and we’ve come here and... according to the style of play, the guys executed it extremely well, but Australia’s capable of more,” Foster said at the time.
“We’re capable of much more against Denmark and the real problem for Australia is that if we’d actually won this game and gone through … I would have preferred that France won, so that we can feel more pain right now.
“Otherwise it is just another moment where everyone feels we almost got there. We walk away. We dust ourselves off and learn very little, if anything, and then move on to the next campaign.”
Graham Arnold's tactics questioned in Socceroos loss
In Australia's Group D opener in Qatar, Foster questioned the tactics employed by Arnold and whether the Socceroos coach should have made earlier changes against a France side that seemed to get better the longer the game went on. In particular, Foster argued Socceroos debutant Nathaniel Atkinson - who was constantly terrorised by Mbappe and guilty of giving the ball away for France's second goal - should have come off earlier than the 85th minute.
“I think the question for Graham is whether he should have changed the game earlier? We were 2-1 down but really we were conceding a lot of really good chances. We thought that maybe he was going to change Atkinson earlier. He got through an incredible amount of work," Foster told SBS.
Bosnich himself suggested that Atkinson should have come off at halftime, with Foster adding: “I was surprised he took so long to change (him), close to the end of the game. You are playing against the finest player in the world.”
Ultimately though, it was the lack of attacking initiative from the Socceroos or willingness from Arnold to change Australia's tactical approach, that left Foster the most disappointed.
“The other question is the ambition and the second half at 2-1 down whether you are going to try and change things. We come out in the second half and the pattern of the game was exactly the same. So at what point are we going to go up and start to press them? Bring the team and start to put some pressure on them. Take more risk," he added.
“Typically what you see, a team is 2-1 down and we are saying at halftime: ‘they are going to come out now and try to chase the game’. But we never really did that and all of a sudden you are down 3-1, then 4-1 and the game is over.”
The FIFA World Cup 2022 is on SBS and SBS on Demand.
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