Australia at the 2022 World Cup – five things to know, including who they will play in Group D and when

After a thrilling penalty shootout win over Peru, the Socceroos are booked once more for sports’ biggest party

Australia have done it again. With a low save to his right to deny Peru’s Alex Valera from the penalty spot, dancing goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne secured cult hero status, launched quite a few memes and booked the Socceroos’ place at the 2022 World Cup.

The win against the more fancied Peru clinched a fifth consecutive berth at sport’s biggest party, 16 years after the Socceroos ended decades in the men’s football wilderness with a similarly heart-stopping win on penalties against Uruguay.

Now, the excitement builds. If you’ve not been paying attention since 2018, here are five things you need to know about the Socceroos and the 2022 World Cup.


1. Qualifying was tough this time

The Socceroos’ journey to the final qualifier against Peru on Tuesday night was tough. On the final whistle, Graham Arnold, the Socceroos manager, noted that of Australia’s 20 qualification matches 16 were played away from home, mostly due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Australia got off to a good start in their Asian confederation qualifying group, but fell behind Saudi Arabia and Japan after a few crucial draws against weaker teams. Finishing third in the group stage set up a do-or-die contest against the United Arab Emirates for a chance to play fifth-placed South American qualifiers Peru, who had humbled the Socceroos at the last World Cup.

Last week’s UAE game ended in a closely fought 2-1 win, with Ajdin Hrustic’s winner coming late in the match. And on Tuesday morning, after more than 1,000 days in search of qualification and 120 goalless minutes against Peru, Australia secured another World Cup berth.

2. Holding the World Cup in Qatar will be unprecedented

This will be the first Fifa World Cup held in the Middle East, and, kicking off on 21 November, it will also be the first held during the northern hemisphere’s winter months.

That decision was taken to account for Qatar’s hot and humid climate. Much has been made about the fact that the eight stadiums in and around Doha are equipped with outdoor air-conditioning systems that are designed to keep conditions manageable for players and fans. In November, though, temperatures in Qatar are also cooler, averaging about 24C.

3. Human rights groups have criticised the decision

The decision to hold the World Cup in Qatar has been condemned by human rights groups. Much of the criticism has been focused on the country’s record on migrant workers, including approximately 40 known to have died while employed building the stadiums where matches will be played.

The Guardian last year reported that more than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died in Qatar since it won the right to host the World Cup, according to data collected from government sources. Last month, a group of non-governmental organisations said Fifa should pay reparations to migrant workers whose human rights have been compromised by the Qatar World Cup.

Socceroos midfielder Jackson Irvine, goalkeeper and captain Mat Ryan are among those who have voiced concerns, as the players consider how and if they might take a stand. Some other national teams have already worn T-shirts with human rights messages in the lead up to the tournament.

Qatar’s government has responded to criticisms of human rights groups, saying it has reformed labour practices and claiming it has made significant progress on tackling the effects of heat stress.

England manager Gareth Southgate is among those who have spoken out about Qatar’s record on LGBTIQ and women’s rights.

4. What are the Socceroos’ chances in their group?

Australia have qualified into Group D, alongside France, Denmark and Tunisia. France, ranked third in the world and the current holders, and Denmark, ranked 11th and recent semi-finalists at the Euros, would be firm favourites to finish in the top two spots and progress to the knockout stage.

Tunisia are ranked 35th, while Australia are 42nd. Australia’s group at the 2018 tournament in Russia was almost identical, with the Socceroos losing 2-1 to France and earning a solid draw against Denmark. However, on paper, the Socceroos squad is arguably weaker heading into this World Cup.

Australia’s best performance at a World Cup was a heartbreaking 1-0 loss in the round of 16 against Italy in 2006. And that was with a star-studded side, often described as the Socceroos’ “golden generation”.

It will take a number of exceptional performances, and a fair bit of luck, to match that.

5. Where and when to watch

The good news is that public broadcaster SBS holds the Australian rights to the World Cup and is promising to show all 64 matches live and free.

As far as timing, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Australia play France at 6am AEDT on Tuesday 22 November. The crucial game against Tunisia is at the prime time of 9pm on Saturday 26 November. Finally, the Socceroos play Denmark at the brutal hour of 2am on Wednesday 30 November.

The knockouts will also require serious viewing commitment, with most matches to be played at 2am or 6am.

The World Cup final at the 80,000-capacity Lusail Stadium will be played on Monday, 19 December at 2am (AEDT).


Luke Henriques-Gomes

The GuardianTramp

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