It had been a difficult leadup to the third round of World Cup Qualifiers for the Socceroos. What was meant to be a home game, turned out to be a match played in the hot (albeit air conditioned) Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar.
This turned out to be a chosen destination for Socceroos boss Graham Arnold, due to the Socceroos being comfortable in these conditions – and even more-so wanting to bring China out of their comfort zone. This proved to be worthwhile; after the first 15 minutes of course.
A nervy start saw China hit the side netting and scramble quick snap shots in and around the box, only for captain keeper Mathew Ryan to clean up the mess. Hrustic quickly took control, pinging balls left and right with expert vision as the Aussies began to take control. By the 20th minute, the Australians had 66% possession – but no real attacking prowess.
That all changed when Awer Mabil went through. First, latching onto a long, low ball and firing straight into the keeper. Mabil had another chance which was originally saved – only to finish the follow up cross from Adam Taggart. The acrobatic finish which rounded the top of the Chinese defender’s head tapped home an attempted parry from the opposition keeper.
Not long after, the Socceroos had a second. A quick counter through the middle saw revitalised midfielder Tommy Rogic dispatch fellow Scottish Premiership man Martin Boyle, who quickly sorted out his feet in order to laser home a low shot into the back of the net. A goal of top quality, Martin Boyle has found scoring form with the international team and surely has established himself as a quality player for the years to come.
The second half started with China playing more fluid football with no chances to reward the play. The Socceroos quickly took hold again, with chances going to Trent Sainsbury, Taggart and Mabil. Soon after, Aaron Mooy came on for goal scorer Martin Boyle while Taggart finished his game without a goal, coming off for Mitch Duke. It took two touches for Duke to guide home a rebound from the keeper, after terrific link up play and a saved shot from Mabil.
A fantastic story brewed when Callum Elder made his debut for the Socceroos after terrific form for Hull City which helped gain promotion to the Championship, coming on for Aziz Behich. After bouncing around the English Football League system for his entire senior career on loans, the 26-year-old looks to establish himself in the Championship as an important player for his club.
The fullback had a few touches during the rest of the half where the Socceroos seemingly toyed with the Chinese squad, hardly giving them a touch and supposedly queuing for a goal that never came. Jimmy Jeggo came on for Irvine, whereas McGree gained another cap as Rogic came off the pitch in the 86th minute.
All in all, it was a fantastic outing for the Socceroos squad who make a signifying start to Round 3 of the Qualification. Elsewhere, Japan lost to Oman while Saudi Arabia made an expected 3-point start to the round.
With Vietnam coming up this following Tuesday night, it will be important to secure the win to stamp a foot of authority onto this stage of the World Cup Qualifiers.