The ‘Socceroos’ overcame India’s ‘power defense’ to record their first win of the tournament.
Australia defeated India 2-0 in their first match of Group B at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Qatar Asian Cup 2023 at the Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar on Wednesday (July 13).
Australia started in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Mitchell Duke, Craig Goodwin-Connor Metcalfe-Martin Boyle, Jackson Irvine-Kainu Bacchus, Aziz Behich, Kai Rawls, Harry Souttar, Gethin Jones, and Matthew Ryan started.
India, considered the underdogs in Group B, also lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Sunil Chhetri, Lalyanjuala Chhangti, Suresh Singh Wangjam, Manveer Singh, Lalengmawia, Deepak Tangri, Subhashish Bose, Rahul Bekhe, Sandesh Jhingan, Nikhil Pujari, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu were the starters.
Australia dominated the game with ball possession. India sat deep, not only in the defense but also in the midfield, and focused on preventing goals. Australia enjoyed a high 71% of possession in the first half and looked to break the deadlock, but were repeatedly thwarted by India’s tenacious defense.
In fact, they even allowed India to create some threatening shots. In the 16th minute, the Australian defense failed to clear a cross from the right. Veteran striker Chhangti took advantage of this and attempted a diving header, but the ball went wide of the post.
Australia also missed a crucial chance. In the 21st minute, Gurfried made a mistake in front of goal and was brought down, clearing the danger, but Goodwin hesitated, and McCafferty’s follow-up shot from mid-range was saved by the returning keeper.
In the end, Australia finished the first half goalless. Boyle’s difficult volley in the 31st minute sailed well over the bar, while Goodwin’s sharp free kick in the 37th minute was blocked by the defense. Metcalfe’s header in the 41st minute was also deflected by the defense. Australia were unable to open the Indian goal despite recording 14 shots and 12 corners in the first half alone.
A mistake cost India the match. In the fifth minute of the second half, goalkeeper Gurpreet failed to clear a cross from the right. Irvine picked up the loose ball and slotted home a left-footed shot to give India the lead.
Australia survived a scare. In the 24th minute, an inaccurate back pass was made by the Australian defense under pressure from India near the halfway line. With goalkeeper Ryan well out of position, the ball almost went straight into the net. However, the pass deflected slightly and headed for the outside of the post, where Ryan was able to dive to collect the ball.
After surviving a scare, Australia pulled one back. In the 28th minute, Riley McGree made a full run down the right flank before sending a low cross to the other side. Jordan Voss made it 2-0 with a simple finish. It was Voss’s A-match debut goal just one minute after coming on as a substitute.
Australia kept pounding away. In the 36th minute, Bruno Fornaroli threatened the goal with a menacing right-footed free kick from near the arc, but the goalkeeper was able to anticipate and palm the ball away.
No more goals were scored. In the 43rd minute, Voss tried a sharp shot from the left side of the box, aiming for the bottom corner of the opposite goal, but it went just wide of the side netting. The game ended 2-0 in favor of Australia, who had 28 shots on goal. It was a win, but a performance that didn’t quite live up to the hype.