Tom Rogic helps Socceroos return to winning ways in crunch World Cup qualifier

·4 min read
<span>Photograph: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images
  • Australia ease to 4-0 win over Vietnam in Melbourne

  • Rogic scores alongside Maclaren, Goodwin and McGree

It had been a while since Tom Rogic has been seen as an answer to Australia’s problems. Long a talisman for his club, Celtic, the playmaker has long been associated with the word “potential” when it comes to the national team. It is a potential that diminishes with each year he ages, as if he is destined never to fulfil it before his career is out.

And yet, at 29, something is stirring within Rogic. Not just in Scotland, where he is experiencing a reawakening under Ange Postecoglou. But also, it seems, with the Socceroos, for whom he was a standout at a time his team really need a standout.

Related: Socceroos 4-0 Vietnam: World Cup 2022 qualifier – as it happened

After last month’s setbacks against Saudi Arabia and China a place at the 2022 World Cup is well and truly on the line for Graham Arnold’s side. Alex Ferguson would call this “squeaky bum time”, and it was incidental that his former Manchester United assistant René Muelensteen was head honcho in the dugout at AAMI Park (Arnold has Covid-19) as the Socceroos set about rectifying their precarious situation.

Specifically Rogic, who had an assist and a goal before half-time and was in pleasing touch throughout a 4-0 result over 90 minutes during which Joel King and Marco Tilio made their international debuts and Fran Karačić was impressive.

“We knew the significance of the game in terms of qualification and the performance of the team,” Rogic said afterwards. “We maybe got a bit sloppy in the second half but overall it was a good day’s work.

“I am enjoying my life on and off the pitch. We have got a bit of work to do regarding qualification but we are on the right track. I think we were in control the whole match ... I don’t think the scoreline flattered us.”

Muelensteen, who described Rogic as an “enormous driving force for us”, said he “can’t be more pleased”.

“We knew it was going to be a challenge but [I was] pleased with the quality we showed at times,” he said. “Most importantly [we got] the three points. We knew we needed to keep going.

“We were in constant touch with [Graham Arnold]. I know he would have been sat there and enjoyed the performance.”

In truth the goals could have been even more plentiful against a Vietnam side who are now none from seven in this stage of qualifying and have conceded 12 goals.

Here the visitors set up to defend stoutly and threw in the odd heart-fluttering transition and grew in confidence as the contest entered the final half-hour, during which half-time substitute Nguyễn Công Phượng would certainly have scored but not for Mat Ryan’s lightening-quick reflexes.

In the end, despite some vocal Vietnamese support among the 27,740 in attendance, the home side held firm. Which was just as well, because they must beat Oman next Tuesday in Muscat to avoid the significantly more challenging play-off route to Qatar.

A hamstring injury has kept Rogic out of action for Australia since last October’s 2-1 loss to Japan, but he clearly knew what was at stake from stake from the kick-off, when he prodded home a cute team transition after 20 seconds played only for the goal to be disallowed after Jackson Irvine was deemed by the VAR to have impeded the goalkeeper.

The 30th minute marked the moment the scoreboard first flicked over, after Rogic popped a lovely ball to an unmarked Jamie Maclaren at the far post. Maclaren’s head enjoyed the glory that time, but Rogic had his own in first-half stoppage-time when Mathew Leckie slipped him a neat pass.

The intensity picked up after the break as thunder and lightning overhead sparked something in Vietnam, with Nguyễn Quang Hải particularly lively. Though he and side tried, any glimmer of hope it might come to something was snuffed by Australia’s third.

A long ball upfield from Ryan found Craig Goodwin, who hurtled onto it and dinked over the head of the onrushing Bùi Tấn Trường for his first international goal.

“Very rewarding, kind of lost for words to be honest,” Goodwin said afterwards. “For me personally, it’s a great moment but there’s a lot of emotion in it. It’s a very rewarding feeling for me and my family as well. All credit to Vietnam. The second half they came out and created some chances.”

Goodwin then helped fellow substitute Riley McGree seal the deal, feeding him the ball for a forceful low strike. Tilio almost scored himself at the death in a half-shot, half-slide that washed across the face of goal but did not quite tuck inside the far post.

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