Aussies scrape in, but feel at home at World Cup in Qatar

Oct 24, 2022, 1:25 PM | Updated: Oct 25, 2022, 1:32 am
FILE - Australian players celebrate after winning in a penalty shoot-out during the World Cup 2022 ...

FILE - Australian players celebrate after winning in a penalty shoot-out during the World Cup 2022 qualifying play-off soccer match between Australia and Peru in Al Rayyan, Qatar, Monday, June 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Hussein Sayed, File)

(AP Photo/Hussein Sayed, File)

              FILE - Australian players celebrate after winning in a penalty shoot-out during the World Cup 2022 qualifying play-off soccer match between Australia and Peru in Al Rayyan, Qatar, Monday, June 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Hussein Sayed, File)
            
              FILE - Australia's head coach Graham Arnold watches play during their World Cup 2022 group B qualifying soccer match between Australia and Japan at Saitama Stadium in Saitama, north of Tokyo, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama, File)
            
              FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2019, file photo, Australia's head coach Graham Arnold, directs his players during the AFC Asian Cup group B soccer match between Australia and Syria at the Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)
            
              FILE - Australia goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne saves during a penalty shoot out during the World Cup 2022 qualifying play-off soccer match between Australia and Peru in Al Rayyan, Qatar on June 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Hussein Sayed, File)
            
              FILE - Australian players celebrate after winning in a penalty shoot-out during the World Cup 2022 qualifying play-off soccer match between Australia and Peru in Al Rayyan, Qatar, Monday, June 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Hussein Sayed, File)

There was a big song and dance about how Australia scraped into the World Cup.

A so-called Wiggles dance made replacement goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne a public enemy in Peru, with his flailing arms and legs as he prepared to make saves in the penalty shootout becoming a meme as the Socceroos secured one of the last spots in Qatar.

With so much focus on Redmayne’s routine in the last-ditch intercontinental playoff, two important elements of that victory following a game that finished 0-0 were overshadowed: Australia earned a place in soccer’s marquee event for the fifth consecutive time, and did it by playing 80% of their qualifying games away from home.

Tough border laws meant the Socceroos didn’t host any international games for more than two years. And so 16 of their 20 qualifiers were on the road in an extra-long campaign that started in September 2019 and culminated in Qatar in June with a 2-1 win over United Arab Emirates in an Asian playoff game that gave them the shot at Peru.

The Aussies are already comfortable with the conditions in Qatar, where they were unbeaten in four qualifiers for 2022 and where they’ve won 10, drawn three and lost two games since 2008.

The Socceroos will open Group D against defending World Cup champion France in a familiar situation: Australia lost to France 2-1 in its opening group game four years ago in Russia. The Australians then play Tunisia before taking on Denmark — another group rival in 2018.

ROAD WARRIORS

Players in the Australian squad are scattered around leagues on four continents, so long-distance travel for national team duties is a regular part of the deal.

Having 13 qualifying games in the Middle East this time around, mainly in Kuwait, cut down on travel time for the bulk of players based in Europe and Asia and allowed for more quality time when in camp.

The Australians had 13 wins, including 11 in a row, and four draws in the 20 qualifying matches. Home-and-away losses to Japan in the last round and a 1-0 loss against Saudi Arabia in Jeddah cost Australia an automatic spot in Qatar, forcing them down the playoff route.

HIDDINK’S HELP

Four years after guiding South Korea on a surprising run to the World Cup semifinals on home soil, Guus Hiddink helped Australia reached the second round at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Australia’s Golden Generation advanced behind Brazil from the group with a 3-1 win over Japan and a draw with Croatia but lost to eventual champion Italy 1-0 on a contentious stoppage-time penalty in the round of 16.

That remains Australia’s best performance at the World Cup. In the last two editions, the Australians haven’t won a game. Hiddink was only too happy to help coach Graham Arnold, his assistant during the 2006 World Cup, fine-tune the squad during a September camp ahead of two friendlies against New Zealand.

“I had an emotion because it kind of revived what we did at that time,” Hiddink said of Australia’s dramatic qualification, saying he didn’t mind a bit of payback.

PLAYING TIME

There’s been local concerns about the lack of playing time for some of the veteran Socceroos, including captain and goalkeeper Mat Ryan at Copenhagen.

The two warm-up wins over New Zealand in September gave Arnold a chance to get his veterans back in camp for one of those games and he gave some of the younger talent a chance in the other.

Among them was 18-year-old Garang Kuol, who went on as a substitute in Australia’s 1-0 win in Auckland before he had started a professional match. His appearances off the bench for an A-League invitational team against Barcelona and the brief run for Australia gained plenty of attention.

Former Socceroo Robbie Slater said Kuol, who was born in Egypt to Sudanese parents and moved to Australia as a child, had the X-factor that would make it hard for selectors not to pick him for the World Cup.

“Every time he touched the ball, he made something happen,” said Slater, now a media analyst. “The kid’s exciting. Everyone can see that. Everyone is buzzing.”

___

AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Then-Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza walks on the sideline during the first half of a prese...
Associated Press

Ex-Bills punter Araiza won’t be charged in alleged gang rape

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Former Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza will not be charged in connection with an alleged gang rape of a 17-year-old girl at an off-campus party last year when he played football for San Diego State University, prosecutors said Wednesday. The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office said no charges will be […]
17 hours ago
Carolina Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) takes off in the first half of an NFL football gam...
Associated Press

McVay: Baker Mayfield likely to be active for Rams vs Vegas

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Coach Sean McVay says Baker Mayfield probably will be active for the Los Angeles Rams’ game against the Raiders on Thursday night, just two days after the Rams claimed the former No. 1 draft pick off waivers from Carolina. McVay wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Mayfield playing against Las Vegas, […]
17 hours ago
University of Virginia Athletic Director Carla Williams, left, and football coach Tony Elliott wipe...
Associated Press

Virginia football players granted extra year of eligibility

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — The NCAA has granted an extra year of eligibility to Virginia football players whose eligibility has expired in the aftermath of the slaying of three members of the team, the school confirmed Wednesday. Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry and Devin Chandler were killed last month as they returned to campus from […]
17 hours ago
Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal meets the media to announce the Netherlands World Cup 2022 squad, ...
Associated Press

Van Gaal’s World Cup with Dutch has hugs, kisses and dancing

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Three wins from the title that has eluded the Netherlands, Louis van Gaal has filled his World Cup with hugs, kisses and dancing. Leading his nation for the third time at age 71, he is the tournament’s oldest coach. He also may be the most dapper, pacing the sideline in a […]
2 days ago
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh smiles after defeating Purdue in the Big Ten championship NCAA col...
Associated Press

Study: Racial gap in grad rates drops again for bowl teams

The racial gap in graduation rates for this year’s bowl teams in college football has declined again, this time to the smallest difference in the history of a study examining the data. The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at Central Florida reported Wednesday that the overall Graduation Success Rate (GSR) for bowl-bound […]
2 days ago
Graphic shows NFL team matchups and predicts the winners; 3c x 1/4 inches...
Associated Press

Pro Picks sees Rams making history to kick off Week 14

The Los Angeles Rams can make history when Week 14 kicks off Thursday night. A loss to the Las Vegas Raiders would give the Rams 10 this season, tying the 1999 Denver Broncos for most by a defending Super Bowl champion. With plenty of games remaining, the Rams (3-9) are well on their way to […]
2 days ago
Aussies scrape in, but feel at home at World Cup in Qatar