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Tunisia win is one of Socceroos’ greatest performances of all time

Before the tournament commenced, the Socceroos were given no chance by many to get out of the group, win a game or even score a single goal at this World Cup.

Those opinions require altering after what we have witnessed in these last two games.

The opener against France was dire and underwhelming, especially in the second half, but there were small glimpses of potential and belief within the squad.

In the build-up to the Tunisia encounter, there was a sense that something special was on the horizon. The boys singing the national anthem and looking pumped for the occasion contributed to that feeling.

Twelve long years since Australia’s last win at a World Cup. Undoubtedly, the moment to repeat that feat was surely edging closer.

One of the main criticisms from the game against the French was the inability to sustain the tidy possession football and work ethic showed in the first 15 minutes for the entire 90 minutes.

That was certainly not the case on Saturday night.

Graham Arnold’s men became superior as the match wore on and asserted their dominance going forward, whipping balls into the penalty area and looking like a constant threat.

The intensity, work rate, and fight showed were incredible to see and it gave all of us Australians a chance to be proud and actually feel somewhat comfortable throughout the course of the game.

Every single Australian player played for their country. They wore their heart on their sleeve and showed the fight and determination needed to be competitive on the biggest stage.

It was the kind of performance we had all been waiting for a long time.

They put their bodies on the line at every opportunity and covered every single patch of grass (119 kilometres, to be exact).

You were proud to be Australian.

Matthew Leckie and Craig Goodwin were exceptional out on the flanks, working hard defensively. Besides the goal, Mitch Duke’s running and work rate were second to none.

Harry Souttar deserves a statute after that heroic display. He was a rock at the back with a huge block and a match-saving tackle that was worthy of celebrating like a goal had been scored, which helped Australia secure their first-ever clean sheet at a World Cup since 1974.

Midfielder Aaron Mooy firing up the crowd after a tackle summed up just how much it meant to them.

Aaron Mooy of Australia celebrates after the 1-0 win during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group D match between Tunisia and Australia at Al Janoub Stadium on November 26, 2022 in Al Wakrah, Qatar. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Then there’s Jackson Irvine, who was left in tears after the game describing the support being received back home. That’s the passion we all love to see. It means something to these players.

Let’s not forget that there were over 30,000 Tunisian supporters in a 40,000-seat stadium going berserk while jeering every Australian touch. Overcoming that intimidation barrier demonstrates just how mentally tough this team is.

Tunisia is not to be underestimated, either. The African nation is ranked 30th in the world and was unlucky not to grab all three points against Denmark.

Where does this triumph rank amongst Australia’s greatest-ever football moments?

With this current core of players not expected to achieve much due to their limited ability, it has to be up there with the World Cup qualifier against Uruguay in Sydney and the win over Japan at the 2006 World Cup in Kaiserslautern.

Those two events were obviously more special and meaningful due to the significance of historical achievements such as qualifying for the World Cup for the first time in 32 years and winning their first-ever World Cup game along with their first-ever win.

Not to say that those victories weren’t met with bravery and courage, but that was Australia’s golden generation, whereas this version of the Socceroos is not blessed with the same gifts, making the win over Tunisia even more appreciated.

Arnold has often copped a lot of heat for his tactical decisions and coaching in general, but one area in which he has done tremendously well is embracing the underdog status and galvanising this group.

This was clearly evident after the final whistle where he brought the squad together in a huddle in the middle of the pitch with injured forward Martin Boyle on crutches to express some motivating words.

The job is not done, however. All focus needs to be shifted towards Thursday morning against Denmark where a result most likely books Australia’s passage to the knockout stages for the first time since 2006. 

In saying that, it’s important to reflect on and commend one of the best Australian performances ever which was a heroic battle produced in front of the world.

More of the same on Thursday. Keep making the country proud. Australia won’t get sick of this winning feeling.

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