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The Student Media Site of William Clarke College

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I’m Mad And You Should Be Too: Australia V South Korea

Photo taken by Molly Darlington/Reuters

On Saturday the 3rd of February the AFC Asia Cup quarter-final between South Korea and Australia occurred. After a decent run of form, Australia was set to face the hardest hurdle so far on their journey to try to win this major international football trophy. The game would be tough, but most Australians agreed it would be winnable. And it was. Yet we did not win, due to nothing short of terrible decision-making, a lack of determination, and one man. One man whose actions displayed either a hatred for his country or an inability to play football.


For some context, Australia’s journey through the tournament to this game had been pretty much a breeze, with 2 wins against Syria and India and a draw against Uzbekistan in the group stage, Australia was firmly placed at the top of their group and into the Round of 16. That match was also not difficult, with a 4-0 win against Indonesia with the better part of a week remaining until their next match giving them plenty of time to train.


On the other hand, South Korea had had a much harder run before the match. 2 draws and a win in the group stage led them to the Round of 16 against Saudi Arabia, which was a full 120-minute game that ended in penalties. Additionally, South Korea has just over 48 hours before the game to recover and potentially train. This meant that they came into the match significantly more tired and in worse form than their Australian opponents.


This showed during the game as well. In the first half, Australia had the most of chances, with Mitchell Duke, Craig Goodwin and Connor Metcalfe all having extremely good chances that were missed or saved, scaring all the Australian fans who had woken up at 2:30 a.m. for the game.


Despite this, by the 42nd minute, things looked positive for the Australians, despite not controlling possession at that time. After some fast-paced build-up play Nathaniel Atkinson, our starting right back sent a cross into the sights of Craig Goodwin who, after missing earlier, scored, putting Australia 1-0 up.


The first half showed a good performance from the Socceroos, with great defensive abilities stopping any accurate shots on goal from Korea. Harry Souttar and Nathaniel Atkinson were standouts from the back, with the former being an almost unbreakable defensive wall and the latter not only being strong defensively but also pulling his weight up the right wing to aid Matin Boyle.  Whilst our attacking players lacked a lot of clinicality and struggled to put away chances there were still positive signs and with the chances created in midfield and out wide, there would surely be more goals to come in the second half and a good win for Australia.


The beginning of the second half had other good chances including a great chance where two shots were saved by the Korean goalkeeper until the ball bounced high for Mitchell Duke who missed an extremely hard shot causing Australia’s lead to still only be one goal.


Then in the 73rd minute, head coach Graham Arnold made a decision that lost the Socceroos the game. Lewis Miller, a young Australian, in nationality, but clearly not in spirit, was subbed on for a tiring Nathaniel Atkinson in right back. He was appalling. Actually, he played worse than that, he was a mess.


He started off poorly misplacing a short pass and giving away possession. He then followed that up with very little passing improvement showing it wasn’t just initial nerves. His defending also started horridly with him wandering off from South Korea’s Heung-Min Son giving away a scary chance to the opposition. He continued this streak of bad play with an apathetic attempt of a run down the right-hand side where he was outpaced by a South Korean player who was clearly exhausted from playing the whole game and the previous week of hard work.  Not only could this player, Lewis Miller, not pass, not dribble and not defend but he also decided he couldn’t even hold a lead. In additional time in the 90+4th minute, Lewis Miller decided to slide tackle Heung-Min Son inside the penalty box, in the most unnecessary fashion conceding a penalty. And then in the 96th minute of play, the score was even.  If we had of held on for another 2 minutes the game would have been a resounding win for Australia. But no, due to Graham Arnold’s terrible decision-making and Lewis Miller’s apparent inability to play football, we were into extra time. But surely, we wouldn’t lose before penalties…


We lost before penalties.


I’m going to give you readers one guess as to who FOR BASICALLY NO REASON fouled a Korean player, giving away a free kick that led to the second goal for Korea, effectively losing Australia the game.




After that catastrophe in the 102nd minute, all hope for Australia was pretty much lost. The team had given up and clearly weren’t playing with much passion. They let their tiredness get to them while Korea were still fighting. A couple minutes later Aiden O’Neil made a clumsy foul and received a red card.


With only 10 men on the pitch Australia’s life and hopes were drained as we had thrown away a seemingly unlosable position and our dreams of another Asian Cup win were crushed. All the proud Australian fans who stayed up till nearly 6 a.m. to watch this trainwreck of an ending to an otherwise positive game will agree that this match was beyond disappointing. It was horrid. An unnecessary loss due to a terrible decision.


Am I saying that Lewis Miller is single handedly responsible for Australia’s elimination from the Asia Cup. Yes. Yes, I am. Maybe we would have conceded anyway but I severely doubt any Australian player could have had a worse performance in that game. It genuinely seemed like he did everything wrong. Especially considering that Miller replaced Nathaniel Atkinson who, though admittedly very tired, had a really good game and had kept his defensive shape well as well as pressing forward successfully. Miller’s cataclysmic and horrid performance should prevent Lewis Miller from ever wearing the Australian kit again. He has failed his nation at an international level, in one of the biggest competitions that he could represent Australia in and for that, he should not be playing for Australia again. Not for a very long time at least.


As much as I would like to blame Lewis Miller for everything, some blame must fall to the man who let that honorary South Korean on the pitch, head coach Graham Arnold. Throughout his time coaching Australia Arnold has shown some flaws, especially a favouritism towards certain players despite their lack of form or quality in matches. His starting lineups were often mildly disappointing but overall, as a passive fan, I never thought he needed to lose his job. Until this game. Although a positive start, Arnold’s substitutions were unhelpful and at times detrimental. He had subbed some of our creative midfielders off at times when we needed a second goal to secure our lead. Then he subbed both the goal scorer and assister off at one substitution, bringing on Lewis Miller and Jordan Bos, a left back, on the wing.


If Arnold had of substituted Bos in on right back instead of Miller and kept the one player on our team who has been proven able to score, Craig Goodwin, on the game could have gone very differently. His style of play throughout the tournament has also shown many holes. In all games prior to the one against South Korea, we had the majority of possession and had no idea what to do with it.


The goals we had scored were from short bursts of class and in general, we seemed lacking in a solid plan or strategy to push forward. Against Korea, where we had less of the ball we did what we are very capable of doing, and played well defensively yet when we had possession, most of the time we would immediately give it away, and in other times when we created chances, out attacking players struggled under the pressure and lacked the ability to finish. I’m not sure exactly what Graham Arnold focused on in training, but if the games are anything to show, it wasn’t what we needed.


Clearly, this is an easy thing to say as a non-professional in hindsight, but the style of play and substitutions that Graham Arnold displayed in this tournament and especially this game should make any rational person question the merit of continuing his appointment as head coach.


To be fair and as nice as I can, given my disappointment, the first 70 to 80 minutes of the game against Korea had many positive elements and several good chances and moments. We seemed in control, even without possession for much of the time and it looked like a win was coming. These are all great things, things the Aussie fans wanted to see when staying up until the early hours of the morning. But this fact, this good thing, makes the fact the game ended in defeat so much worse. Bad decisions, Lewis Miller’s inability to play football and the general defeatist attitude from the Socceroos in the final minutes were beyond disappointing and it spelt disaster.


In my opinion, the Australian fans deserve better, and I genuinely doubt we will get it under Graham Arnold. Hopefully, we can have a new, more capable head coach for the remaining World Cup qualifiers to ensure we have less of a disappointing exit from that tournament than we did in this one.

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