Mathew Leckie scored twice as Australia coasted to a 3-0 victory over Kuwait, launching their mission to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.
Australia missed out on hosting the tournament, which controversially was awarded to Qatar, but they are determined to extend their proud qualifying record, having reached each of the last four tournaments.
The Socceroos were jolted by their 1-0 quarter-final defeat to United Arab Emirates in the Asian Cup in January, and an inexperienced line-up then lost by the same score in a friendly against South Korea in June.
Head coach Graham Arnold came in after last year’s World Cup in Russia, where Australia tumbled out after the group stage, and now is the time the former Sydney FC boss must deliver.
This was perhaps not the match to judge him by, with Australia giving a perfunctory performance against limited opponents who resorted in the second half to dishing out some rough treatment.
— Caltex Socceroos (@Socceroos) September 10, 2019
Australia snatched a seventh-minute lead with a scrappy goal, Jackson Irvine’s undercooked left-footed volley striking team-mate Adam Taggart first and then bouncing into the net off Leckie.
They were facing a side that beat Nepal 7-0 in their opening second-round Group B qualifier last week – begging the question of how many Australia might score when they come to face the Himalayan side next month.
Kuwait worked hard but carried little threat, and Irvine and Taggart both spurned chances before the second goal arrived for Australia on the half-hour mark.
Aaron Mooy’s corner from the right found Irvine beyond the far post, and he nodded down towards the six-yard box for Leckie to smash home from close range for his second goal.
Irvine whistled a shot just wide from 15 yards when he perhaps should have done better, before Mooy grabbed the third goal for the Socceroos in the 38th minute, rifling a 22-yard shot into the top corner as the home side failed to clear their lines.
The second half was rather a non-event, Hussain Al Moussawi and Yousef Naser threatening consolation goals for Kuwait but unable to find a way past Mat Ryan.
What does it mean? Australia get the job done
If anything, Australia emerge with credit for never looking in danger. Previous Socceroos teams have made a bad habit of losing an away qualifier to supposedly vastly inferior opposition. That was never on the cards.
As their cricketing countrymen would agree, success can be cyclical. The men in baggy green endured a rocky patch or two before hitting their current Ashes high, and the Socceroos are undoubtedly a work in progress, their followers waiting for this generation to prove they have what it takes to be high achievers.
Their squad looks perhaps as strong as ever, with a large number playing at a high level in Europe, but as a team they have yet to fully click.
Mooy the merrier
Mooy has seen precious little Premier League action since moving from Huddersfield Town to Brighton and Hove Albion, but he was a lynchpin of the Australia side in this game and his exquisite strike was just reward. He might not have the flair of a Harry Kewell or the instinctive nose for goal of Tim Cahill, despite his screamer on this occasion, but Mooy can be pivotal over this campaign.
Australia welcome Nepal to Canberra on October 10 and can surely fill their boots with goals. Kuwait go to Jordan on the same day.
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