The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: Socceroos v Nepal

by Ben Somerford on Oct 11, 2019

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It wasn’t hard work. Three-nil up inside 23 minutes, the Socceroos waltzed to a 5-0 win over Nepal on Thursday night in Canberra. Yet there’s been angst at the display.

Jamie Maclaren jagged a hat-trick to quadruple his international goal tally in one night, while Scotland-born Harry Souttar marked his maiden voyage Down Under, and his Australia debut, with a goal (he cannot claim that second!).

On paper there was a lot to like, but GGArmy’s Ben Somerford analyses the good, the bad and the ugly from the win in front of more than 18,000 fans in the nation’s capital.

The Good
It’s impossible to look beyond Jamie Maclaren who bagged a hat-trick to take his international goal ratio from one in every 13 games to one in every three-and-a-half! Say what you want about the quality of the opposition, but there’s no doubt goals generate confidence and aid belief.

Speaking post-game, Maclaren acknowledged he’d questioned if he belonged at international level previously so netting the first Socceroos hat-trick in almost two years, will go some way to abating that fear.

All three of his goals were relatively simple but that’s what a good striker does, the old cliché; in the right place, at the right time. On the back of excellent goal scoring form in the FFA Cup at club level, right now is the ideal time for Maclaren to securely find his feet at Socceroos level.

The Bad
The Socceroos have a problem which has gone under the radar too long. Left-back.

Aziz Behich is badly out of touch. A lack of game-time at club level means he’s rusty. But he’s never been a world-beater. Far from it. The best spell of Behich’s career was at Turkish midtable outfit Bursaspor, where he was a first XI regular, leading to his inclusion in Australia’s starting line-up at the 2018 World Cup.

He did a serviceable job at the World Cup but let us down at times. He has energy and he has the will to get up and down the left flank but his touch, passing and delivery leave a lot to be desired. Even with the benefit of time and space against a weak opponent last night, Behich’s inability to get his head up inside the box and pinpoint a pass was exposed. It’s a problem, as his inaccuracy often breaks down or ends attacks.

Behich has been trusted for a long time, but don’t be surprised if Brad Smith gets a chance in Taipei, on the back of good form in the MLS. Alex Gersbach is another long-term option too.

The Ugly
There’s been plenty of criticism of Australia’s display. It’s pretty much standard in Australian football circles. It’s often fuelled by Fox Sports’ emotional and reactionary experts like Mark Bosnich and Robbie Slater.

It’s an all-too-familiar story and I want to call it out. If the result or performance doesn’t match pre-game expectation, the anger starts. Football as a community is unique like this. Just look at Sokkah Twitter. It feels at times perfection is expected from our national team when we’re nothing more than a side ranked around the 50s in world football. Yet a 5-0 win isn’t good enough.

I will acknowledge there were numerous plays and possessions which broke down last night, leaving me frustrated. But that happens at any level. I get frustrated watching some of my favourite teams like Arsenal or Dortmund all the time!

The expectation that Australia wipes the floor with Nepal is naïve (admittedly Iran’s 14-0 pasting of Cambodia does my argument no help) but I reckon from time to time let’s cut the team a little slack.