Socceroos try to stop World Cup history from repeating itself as the ghosts of 2010 appear | Australia

This World Cup is starting to feel a bit South Africa 2010. Australia’s 4-1 humiliation at the hands of France in Qatar on Wednesday inspires a feeling as ominous as that of 12 years ago, when Australia began their campaign with a 4-0 thrashing by Germany in Durban.

The team, led by the late Pim Verbeek, recovered via a 1–1 draw with Ghana – despite Harry Kewell’s early red card – and then beat Serbia 2–1. But the damage was done in the first game. Too many goals were sent in and they finished third in their group on goal difference.

Today’s Socceroos are in a similar position and now face the daunting task of climbing back up the hill France threw them down to prevent history from repeating itself.

“Of course there’s more on the line now for the second game,” midfielder Jackson Irvine said the day after the opener. “But at the end of the day, you know you have to get two positive results to make progress, and we still believe that’s achievable.”

Graham Arnold’s side are in a slightly more promising position than the 2010 class, with one goal in their favor thanks to that Craig Goodwin scorcher leading the nation for 18 minutes to believe a strike from the defending champions could be in the cards .

What it means is that they need to beat Tunisia in their second game on Saturday and also pray that France score another hatful against Denmark, who were held to a 0-0 draw by lesser-favoured Tunisia in their opening game. That would put Australia in a positive position to go into the third and final game with Denmark next Wednesday.

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Draw with world number 30 Tunisia and the prospects are tougher, with a victory over Denmark as the minimum requirement plus the hope of other results coming their way. A loss would effectively end their Qatar 2022 campaign.

In short, the team has two days to prepare for the Tunisians, who they have not played against since a 2-0 Confederations Cup defeat in 2005. The North Africans will have a 12th man in a large and extremely noisy contingent of Tunisian fans largely made up of a 55,000 expatriate community in Qatar. It could create a hostile atmosphere at Al Janoub Stadium, where Australia will play all three group matches.

Mile Jedinak, Carl Valeri and Nikita Rukavytsya after the defeat to Germany at the 2010 World Cup.
Mile Jedinak, Carl Valeri and Nikita Rukavytsya after the defeat to Germany at the 2010 World Cup. Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Right now, however, the priority for the players is to move on mentally after the heartbreaking loss to what Arnold called a “bigger, faster and stronger” France. Irvine said it still felt “pretty raw”, but the group started to shift focus to their next opponent.

“The key is to use last night as a platform to build into Saturday instead of overthinking how that game went,” Irvine said. “There are lessons to be learned tactically. We need to defend crosses better – conceding three goals from wide area is a very clear lesson for us to learn.

“When we were on the front foot early in the game, we looked like a completely different kind of threat. Of course you have to be aware of the individual quality of the opponent, especially when playing against players of that pace – you don’t want to leave too much space behind you. But I think when we played on the forefoot, when we pressed high, that’s where we had the most joy.

Tunisia, led by captain Youssef Msakni, matched Denmark in 10th place in both attack and defense, creating chances and targeting Christian Eriksen. That performance will boost confidence that the team can reach the knockout stage after five failed attempts.

“This will of course be a completely different opposition; the game will play out in a totally different way,” Irvine said. “Against a team that can play so compactly… you’re going to have to find other ways to create chances.

“We have the quality of players who can play next to or between the lines in those areas and create opportunities to score goals. We will look at where the best areas are to hurt them, but not much changes within the framework that we always trying to do.

The key for Australia could be striker Ajdin Hrustic, who has not played since October 3 due to an ankle injury and was unused against France, but could still play a vital role in this game.

“He’s a quality player, we obviously want him on the pitch as soon as he’s available,” said Irvine. “I am sure he will play a big role in the upcoming games.”

Hrustic player profile

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