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Australia vs Kuwait 2021 football, Socceroos, news, FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifying, analysis, Graham Arnold, Aaron Mooy, Ajdin Hrustic

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A Graham Arnold mentality masterstroke played out exactly as he planned in a crushing win for the Socceroos.

Now the Australian head coach faces a selection headache – albeit one that he’ll probably find pleasing.

Here’s the biggest talking points from the 3-0 victory over Kuwait.

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Hrustic’s ROCKET leaves goalie stunned | 00:35

Roos too hot to handle

Australia’s record in the Middle East has been unimpressive across the years. Sub-par pitches, defensive-minded opponents, and oppressive conditions have combined to thwart the Socceroos time and again.

And conditions were equally tough this time around. Down from a high of 45 degrees during the day, temperatures dipped under 40 degrees in the hour before a 10pm kick-off. But you would hardly have guessed, given the frenzied pace of the Socceroos attack in the first half.

The tempo, driven by the fullbacks charging up and down the sidelines, and by the quick and precise passing of midfielders Ajdin Hrustic and Jackson Irvine, will impress coach Graham Arnold. The attacking line-up was heavy on pace: Mat Leckie up front, flanked by Martin Boyle and Awer Mabil. It paid off against an often-static and disorganised defensive unit.

There was one moment that perfectly summed up the intensity and effort of the Socceroos. When Martin Boyle had his penalty saved, four Australian attackers reached the six-yard box ahead of a single defender. The Kuwait side is full of semi-professionals and is ranked 107 places below the Socceroos, but Arnold’s charges outworked as well as outplayed their opposition.

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Four Socceroos reacted quickest when Martin Boyle’s penalty was saved.
Four Socceroos reacted quickest when Martin Boyle’s penalty was saved.Source: FOX SPORTS

It comes back to a unique training demand from the Australian mastermind: the word ‘heat’ is banned in camp.

“When you talk about the conditions, that’s an excuse at the end of the day because the other nations have to put up with it – Nepal, Taipei, Jordan and Kuwait,” Arnold said last month on Box2Box.

“I’ve already put a ban on the word that you mentioned that starts with ‘h’ and ends in ‘t’ … there’s only two letters in between.

“Once you start talking about it, it gets subconsciously put into the player’s brain and that comes up as an excuse.”

No excuses today.

The Tim Cahill mentality lives on

Wind the clock back 18 months to when the Socceroos last kicked a ball in anger. In those four World Cup qualifiers the Socceroos scored goals freely — 16 in all.

But something in particular stands out: the number of goals that came from crosses and set pieces. Towering defender Harry Souttar scored four goals in his first two matches, using his sizeable frame to bully opponents in the air. Against Nepal, Rhyan Grant got his head to a cross at the back post, and nodded the ball back across goal for Jamie Maclaren to head home. Against Taiwan, Adam Taggart headed in a cross. All three of the Socceroos goals against Kuwait came from crosses that weren’t effectively dealt with by defence.

It’s a trend that continued today, as Mat Leckie – hardly the tallest attacker in the world – dropped off his marker when a corner broke down, found space at the back post, and confidently headed Martin Boyle’s cross into the back of the net.

Former Socceroo Mark Bosnich said on Fox Sports: “We are as good as anyone in the air in Asia and I don’t think we utilise it enough. That’s another point in terms of evidence of that.”

His fellow ex-international Robbie Slater said: “If you look at the Tim Cahill era, he dominated Asia with his head at times – it was quite extraordinary, all those qualifiers and Asian Cups.

“Historically Australia has been very, very good in the air, and it’s something we need to use.”

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Leckie leapt.Source: AFP

Leckie should have headed in a second goal in the first five minutes when Fran Karacic found him on the penalty spot. And he used his body well to chest down another Karacic cross after half an hour, only to wildly swing his left peg at the half-volley and send it soaring over the crossbar.

The stats tell the story: the Socceroos launched a whopping 29 crosses into the box. Arnold’s 4-2-3-1 formation relies on the fullbacks bombing down the flanks and then bombing the ball into the box.

With Jamie Maclaren and Harry Souttar set to get their chance in the starting XI in coming matches, Australia’s aerial threat will only increase.

‘Rusty’ Roos just at 20 per cent as Hrustic creates midfield headache

Debutant Fran Karacic was superb as right-back. Fellow fresh faces Kenny Dougall and Riley McGree showed flashes of brilliance off the bench. Ajdin Hrustic was exceptional on his starting debut and just his fourth cap overall. Add in Ryan McGowan – first appearance since 2017 – and James Holland – first appearance since 2014 – and the depth of the Socceroos squad begins to show through.

“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to the boys,” Graham Arnold said after the game.

“Listen, that’s only 20 per cent of what you’re going to get from this team. I expect a big improvement from the players. At times they were a little bit rusty — turned over possession a bit easy. This team is only going to get greater and greater.”

Socceroos breeze past outmatched Kuwait | 02:15

The squad is without Aaron Mooy (family reasons) and Tom Rogic (injury niggle), the two most experienced and influential playmakers. But Hrustic just gave Graham Arnold a serious headache about his midfield line-up going forward.

“I do believe that he’s going to be one of the stars of the future of the new generation,” Arnold said of the 24-year-old after the clash.

Socceroos great Mark Bosnich labelled him: “As exciting a player I’ve seen for Australia in a really, really long time.”

It’s only his first starting appearance, and just his fourth cap overall, but Hrustic showed class in abundance and looms as a long-term option in Australia’s midfield. Arnold must now decide who to drop out of the system – or to reshape his structures to allow play Mooy and Hrustic side-by-side. Either way, it’s a good headache to have.

Arnold has long spoken of his desire to build a deeper Australian squad. He has been robbed of that chance over the last 18 months, just as a number of rising talents have been robbed of debuts in that time. But the performances of both returning veterans and the debutants today will bring a smile to Arnold’s face, and there’s more to come.

“I didn’t bring 31 players for them to sit up in the grandstand,” the Socceroos boss said.

“I haven’t been able to work with the players for 18 months. This is the perfect few weeks to get the boys together and build the team again, to rebuild the team.”

There are four more potential debutants in the squad. Don’t be surprised if they all get a run in the next 12 days.

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Christian Eriksen collapses, given CPR, latest update, Denmark vs Finland, hospital, reaction

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Denmark star Christian Eriksen was awake in hospital, the Danish Football Union said on Saturday, after he collapsed on the pitch during the Euro 2020 game against Finland in Copenhagen.

“Christian Eriksen is awake and is undergoing further tests” at the hospital, the Danish federation said on Twitter, after the player was carried off the field having received CPR by medical personnel.

UEFA said Eriksen had been “stabilised” after the match was suspended in the first half.

European football’s governing body added that a “crisis meeting” had taken place with both teams and match officials over whether to restart the game. It was decided the game would resume at 8.30pm local time (4.30am AEST).

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Denmark players surround Christian Eriksen (Hidden) of Denmark as he receives medical treatment during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group B match between Denmark and Finland on June 12, 2021 in Copenhagen, Denmark.Source: Getty Images
Denmark’s midfielder Thomas Delaney and Denmark’s defender Andreas Christensen react as paramedics attend to Denmark’s midfielder Christian Eriksen.Source: AFP
Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark react.Source: AFP

Group B’s opening match was stopped after Eriksen fell to the earth near the touchline at the end of the first half, with Danish players in tears as medical staff tried to revive the Inter Milan player.

The previously raucous crowd at the Parken Stadium in the Danish capital fell silent, with the 29-year-old’s teammates gathering around him to stop anyone from seeing his on-pitch treatment.

Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and captain Simon Kjaer had to comfort Eriksen’s stricken partner Sabrina Kvist Jensen by the side of the pitch.

Finland players react as Christian Eriksen receives treatment.Source: Getty Images

After around 15 minutes Eriksen was stretchered off the field followed by the rest of the Denmark team, while Finland’s players also walked off.

The fans in the stadium, who were celebrating the chance to see their national team again live at the stadium, sat silently in their seats waiting for news of Eriksen’s condition.

However soon after stadium-wide chants of “Christian” and “Eriksen” from both sets of supporters began to ring out as his status began to filter through to supporters.

They were brought to their feet when stadium announcers said that Eriksen was “stable”.

Denmark’s midfielder Christian Eriksen before the incident on Saturday.Source: AFP

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Christian Eriksen collapsed to the floor during Denmark’s match against Finland on Saturday afternoon.

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Christian Eriksen collapsed during the first half of Denmark’s match against Finland on Saturday afternoon.

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