Australia has made a strong start against Peru after Socceroos coach Graham Arnold rolled the dice by dumping one star to the bench.
The Socceroos have made a positive start in their crucial World Cup Play-off against Peru, hoping to book a spot in a fifth consecutive FIFA World Cup.
The Socceroos are heavy underdogs for the must-win contest in Doha at the same Al Rayyan Stadium venue where the Socceroos defeated the UAE to move through to the final Play-off clash with Peru.
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The Socceroos announced a selection shake-up less than an hour before kick-off with Adelaide United’s Craig Goodwin dropped to the bench — and manager Graham Arnold is gambling his job with the decision.
The match kicked off at 4am (AEST) with the Socceroos pressing the attack early and peppering the Peru goal with a series of chances and dangerous balls into the box.
Despite the dominance, it is 0-0 at half time.
Peru under fire for ‘cunning’ plan
Peru has used stalling tactics to frustrate the Socceroos as Australia dictated terms in the first half.
Peru coach Ricardo Greca was pulling his hair out at his team’s lack of tempo, however, Socceroos great Andy Harper said it could be the result of a “cunning plan”.
“Australia look really comfortable with being allowed into the game, earning the right to acclimatise to the contest,” Harper said.
“I don’t know that Greca would be that happy with the lack of intensity from his team to get the ball back into action. But perhaps that is part of their cunning plan.”
Socceroos great Luke Wiltshire told Network 10 at half time the Socceroos’ dominance would have seen Peru players get a “rocket” from their coach.
“They have looked lackluster, he said.
“We have dominated that half without going ahead and they are going to cop a rocket at half time. Their coach was not happy.
“I think they have underestimated us. They have been sloppy. I think we have been on without being clinical.”
Red hot Socceroos make big statement early
The Socceroos have dominated the early exchanges and had the first five real shots on goal.
Mitch Duke fired wide twice from outside the box before Jackson Irvine headed over the bar from an Aaron Mooy corner.
Martin Boyle also almost found Duke in the box in the 20th minute with a flashy run in from the corner of the penalty area.
It was a very positive, assertive start.
The ABC’s Dan Colasimone posted on Twitter the Socceroos “look dangerous”.
The only problem from the first half was an early yellow card to defender Nathaniel Atkinson.
Graham Arnold makes big change to face Peru
Craig Goodwin has been dumped to the bench for Australia’s play-off with Peru with Mitch Duke coming into the side to play up front.
The selection gamble has seen Matthew Leckie shift to the left wing.
Socceroos great Mark Milligan said before kick-off he was concerned about the ability of Australia’s back four to deal with any speed Peru can exploit out wide.
Arnold said before kick-off: “I feel excitement and relaxed. It’s been since 2005 when we played a South American team in the final qualifier.
“I’m just excited to see the boys playing and I’m here to help the boys.”
There are just four players remaining from the Australian team that faced Peru at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
‘Insane’ scenes before World Cup Play-off
With over 12,000 Peruvian fans expected to be in attendance in Doha, the crowd will be heavily against the Aussies.
“We’ve got to get in their faces,” Socceroos coach Graham Arnold told SEN radio on the weekend.
“We’ve got to make a fight of this, a war of this, and make sure that when we go out on the pitch that we rattle them. When we do that, that’s our best chance.”
New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet posted a video to Twitter: “Effort, aggression commitment and desire are always qualities that our national football team have. Our Socceroos have plenty of confidence in their experience, and on behalf of New South Wales we wish you the best of luck as you aim for the World Cup.”
After missing out on automatic qualification, the Socceroos eliminated the United Arab Emirates in the Asian qualifying playoff last week to give themselves one final opportunity.
Socceroos in World Cup playoffs
1965 – lost to North Korea
1969 – lost to Israel
1973 – beat South Korea
1985 – lost to Scotland
1993 – lost to Argentina
1997 – lost to Iran
2001 – lost to Uruguay
2005 – beat Uruguay
2017 – beat Honduras
Originally published as Australia vs Peru live: Socceroos stun with strong start after selection gamble