The Socceroos went from a crushing blow to arguably their greatest ever World Cup moment in the space of a minute, courtesy of a turn of events even the players themselves struggled to believe at first.
Australia had their destiny in their own hands with things still scoreless midway through the first half against Denmark in Doha. Then Tunisia’s shock goal against France in the Group D match being played simultaneously turned everything on its head.
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Socceroos assistant René Meulensteen was the first to learn about the goal – which meant a draw would no longer be enough for Australia to progress to the Round of 16.
Meulensteen revealed he didn’t even have time to think about how to break the news to coach Graham Arnold before Mat Leckie scored the critical, and ultimately match-winning goal that made the result in the other game irrelevant.
“It was just information, there was no reason to jump at it,” Meulensteen.
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“The great thing was, it happened and then a minute later, we scored.
“That’s when I told Arnie, to say, Tunisia’s winning one-nil . Then we told (defender) Milos Degenek to tell the players and to make sure they know where we are and we have to keep a clean sheet.”
That’s where things got interesting – Degenek is a bit of a character with a dry sense of humour and his message didn’t get across the first time.
“The boys thought it was me psyching them up so we don’t lose, but it was actually me being serious,” he said.
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Midfielder Jackson Irvine confirmed as much.
“I didn’t (believe him) anyway. In the back of my mind I was actually like ‘well done Milosh, that’s a good idea. tell the boys we need to win, absolutely, and then you find out later on.
“…After you see (that) you play out all those nightmare scenarios in your head and you just get to sit back and take a deep breath and thankfully that’s not what happened.”
Tunisia held on for a famous win but it wasn’t enough to progress – the second brutal blow dealt to them by the Socceroos in the space of four days after Australia’ 1-0 win.
“I’m so enormously proud of the way they man-managed the situation in the second half,” Meulensteen said of his players.