The Socceroos cruised to a 5-0 win over Bangladesh in front of a sold-out crowd in Perth. Joey Ratcliffe looks at what Australia can take from such a one-sided encounter.
The last time Australia embarrassed Bangladesh so badly on a sporting field was when Australian cricketer Jason Gillespie was awarded man-of-the-match not for his role of bowling but for his 201 runs with the bat.
That match against Bangladesh was nine years ago in Chittagong. This time, Australia humiliated Bangladesh in Perth on the football field.
Even Fox Sports’ colour commentator Andy Harper lambasted the Bengalis for being ‘inept’ and more useless than plastic training cones.
In the early stages of the game, it seemed like Bangladesh had more throw-ins than passes, much of those won as unforced errors.
There are only a number of sporting events that would have had such a gap between ability. Eric the Eel’s attempt at the 100m freestyle during the Sydney Olympics and a regular PGA Tour pro-am spring to mind.
David and Goliath battles don’t always make for the best spectacles either, despite the high-scoring that usually comes in the football renditions.
In Perth for this World Cup qualifier, there was less difference in the haircuts of Mathew Leckie than in the footballing ability of the opposing teams.
Even Australia’s goalkeeper Adam Federici looked so bored he needlessly raced a team-mate for the ball far outside his box.
While defending, which we may as well deem the entire match, Bangladesh played every man behind the ball. But not with much structure, rather men scattered in and around the box to act as random roadblocks to Australia’s attacks.
Sometimes they blocked attacks, other times they just deflected the ball in to the net – Tom Rogic making the most of this tactic with two deflected goals in the first half.
After 35 minutes of the match, Aaron Mooy and Mark Milligan had over 30 more passes than the entire Bangladeshi team. One of Mooy’s passes was even to himself as he nut-megged a defender and decided to take the ball off his teammate on the other side.
Such one-sided affairs aren’t unfamiliar in World Cup Qualifiers. In Europe, the heavyweights regularly batter the minnows like the Faroe Islands, Malta, San Marino and now even Gibraltar.
It is the World Cup and every nation needs to compete for it to truly live up to its title, and sometimes you compete against nations that aren’t as good as you. Brazil and France probably felt like this two years ago when they both pummelled Australia 6-0 in friendlies.
At least this wasn’t as one-sided as when the Socceroos flogged American Samoa 31-0 in Coffs Harbour. Nonetheless, it was still one-sided.
The positives out of the first half were that two of our form players in Europe – Rogic and Mathew Leckie – got themselves on the scoresheet.
Nathan ‘Aussie Messi’ Burns also scored his first ever goal for the Green and Gold.
At half time it was 4-0 to the Socceroos, but if this were a boxing match, the referee would have called it off much earlier.
In fact, the match became somewhat of a bore rather than a goal-fest spectacle with Australia seeming to enjoy their possession far more than they wanted to entertain on the scoreboard.
In the second-half, it didn’t get much better for Bangladesh as one of their defenders injured himself with an attempted clearance that turned into a wild air-swing.
Then the goals dried up for Australia. When you expect a rout and no one’s hitting the back of the net, the game drags.
Everyone loves a team that can pass another off the field, but not when it looks like a glorified training drill with the local pub side acting as the training cones.
Melbourne City’s new marquee Aaron Mooy then decided to lace one and found the back of the net, much to the joy of the sold-out crowd.
That joy then evolved into a standing ovation as national hero Tim Cahill entered the fray. Cahill has two trademarks for the Socceroos – headed goals and last-ditch winners.
The latter wouldn’t be needed as it was already 5-0 by the time the former Everton star notched up his first minutes of the game. The former also didn’t come about as the constant crosses, mainly from Jason Davidson’s left boot, failed to find the target.
Cahill’s entrance was also met with Bangladesh’s first shot on goal, courtesy of a spot kick. It also meant Federici had earned his clean sheet for the evening. A save is a save, after all, no matter how straight-forward
Brought on alongside Cahill was a future star of the national set-up, Chris Ikonomidis. Minutes later, he came close to his first ever senior goal for club or country when he hit the crossbar.
Then it was substitute Jackson Irvine’s turn to almost score his debut Socceroos goal as his header rattled the far post.
Late in the game, Ikonomidis glided into the box and thumped a left-footed strike at goal, but it was, unfortunately, saved by the ‘keeper, who impressed at times, though could have done better for the fourth goal when his fumble fell into the path of Burns.
Despite Australia’s immense possession and Bangladesh’s desire to defend deep, Ikonimidis’ positive attack added direction to the Socceroos that the side have lacked for years.
A player you can’t coach. A player that has such natural ability that their talent alone creates opportunities. Ikonomidis has that X-factor that the Socceroos usually lack.
The match ended 5-0 in what ended up being a simple outing for the Socceroos. The positives for Bangladesh? Not many, although they did get to play on what looked like an excellent Perth pitch.
As for the statistic everyone has been waiting on, it may surprise on paper but after watching the game it makes sense.
Total runs for Gillespie in that innings against Bangladesh? 201. Total passes completed by Bangladesh against the Socceroos? 193.
Next stop for the Socceroos? Tajikstan. That encounter should be as difficult as Kyrgyzstan was, because there is nothing as difficult in world sport as the unknown on unfamiliar territory.
It’s great to see the Socceroos win, but sometimes it’s just more exciting when they’re the underdogs. However, considering we’re the current continental champions, Japan away is perhaps the only match where Australia wouldn’t start as favourites.
(Though they’ve continued their struggles that saw them exit the Asian Cup early. The Blue Samurai defeated Cambodia 3-0 after an extremely disappointing 0-0 draw with Singapore in the earlier World Cup qualifying fixtures).
It was little more than a glorified training run, but a win is a win and Ange Postecoglou was given another opportunity to blood some of the next generation, while others got off the mark for the national side. You can only beat what’s in front of you.