The Good, the Bad & the Ugly: Socceroos v Uzbekistan

by Ben Somerford on Jan 22, 2019

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We made it. After an ordinary first-half and an improved second 45 plus a nervy half hour of extra-time, the Socceroos squeezed past Uzbekistan on penalties.

Australian goalkeeper Mat Ryan, who almost inarguably is the side’s best player right now, was the hero with two saves in the shootout.

Substitute Mathew Leckie marked an impressive return, showing coolness to convert the winner for a 4-2 victory to clinch a meeting with hosts UAE, who edged past Kyrgyzstan overnight in extra-time.

In light of Australia’s progression, GGArmy’s Ben Somerford reflects on the Good, the Bad and the Ugly for the performance.

The Good
The fact that we made it is the best news. I doubt anyone in Australia who had the work the next day enjoyed the method but the Socceroos got there.

Ryan was the hero in the shootout but he also made a crucial block early on when Trent Sainsbury’s casual mannerisms got the better of him as Eldor Shomurodov cruised past him and in one-on-one.

Winger Mathew Leckie returned to action for the first time since December 22 as a 68th minute substitute and was a welcome addition. Leckie looked quick and importantly sharp despite his lay-off, and created Australia’s best second-half chances, twice testing the Uzbek keeper. He also coolly stepped up for the winning penalty.

Leckie’s impact will have coach Graham Arnold pondering if he’s ready for a start and if so, who makes way. Awer Mabil and Chris Ikonomidis have impressed on the flanks in Leckie’s absence.

The Bad
Aziz Behich has made 16 consecutive starts for the Socceroos at left-back, reflecting his major strength as an athlete with energy and stamina in spades. However, he lets himself down with his control, crossing and finishing.

Behich’s presence among Australia’s top five in the shootout seemed completely bizarre and he never looked confident before his spotkick was saved. You’ve got to ask why he was one of the Socceroos’ preferred penalty takers.

The Ugly
Qatari referee Abdulrahman Al Jassim displayed a willingness to brandish cards upon any invitation all night and Socceroos midfielder Tom Rogic was on the wrong end of a tough call which means he’ll miss the UAE quarter-final.

Rogic picked up the booking in the 20th minute when his leg followed through from a pass and collected an Uzbek defender. The sole of the boot was visible but it seemed totally accidental, yet was deemed bad enough for a card.

The ref handed out five cards in total for the night, including one in the second minute where he set the tone. We’ve seen some strange officiating during this tournament and this was another episode. The bad news was Rogic’s enforced absence, which leaves Australia with a creative hole in attack.