How two Hearts defenders, Dundee United's duracell bunny, Celtic's Aaron Mooy and Jason Cummings fared on tough night against France

Things you thought you would never see at the World Cup: a 6ft 6in Scottish defender playing 40-yard diagonals to set up a goal, a defence made up of two Jambos plus a Dundee United left-back up against Kylian Mbappe, and Jason Cummings leading the forward line, all in the same team and in Australia colours.

Hearts defender Kye Rowles was given the sternest of examinations by France superstar Kylian Mbappe.
Hearts defender Kye Rowles was given the sternest of examinations by France superstar Kylian Mbappe.

But that’s what happened at the Al Janoub Stadium on Tuesday night. 22/11/22 will no doubt be remembered for Argentina’s shock 2-1 defeat by Saudi Arabia but for those in green and gold, selected for the Socceroos for their Group D opener against world champions France, they will recall it for different reasons, even if it turned into a chastening night. The French eventually won 4-1, but not without a wee fright.

Australia may as well be called the Scoteroos. Two of their players are Scottish. Harry Souttar was born in Aberdeen, raised in Brechin but defected to Australia in 2019. Cummings grew up in Saughton, Edinburgh, and was capped twice by Scotland in friendlies before his Australia debut two months ago. Four of their starting XI play in the cinch Premiership – Nathaniel Atkinson, Kye Rowles (both Hearts), Aziz Behich (Dundee United) and Aaron Mooy (Celtic) – while another Jambo in Cammy Devlin was on the bench, sitting next to St Mirren’s Keanu Baccus. He made it on to the pitch, the first man from the Paisley club to play on the world stage. Three former Hibs players were on show in Jackson Irvine, Jamie Maclaren and Cummings. The only absentee was current Hibee Martin Boyle, ruled out cruelly on the eve of this tournament due to a knee injury.

Hide Ad

Football never ceases to amaze. Rowles’ direct opponent less than two weeks ago was Joel Nouble, here it was Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman scored twice but he couldn’t do what the Livingston forward could in forcing Rowles into a red card. Right-back Atkinson was tormented by Mbappe and was at fault for the second goal but never gave up. The energetic Behich cleared a shot off the line, Mooy tried in vain to protect his defence. They were up against opponents many levels above their station. So on nine minutes, when Australia opened the scoring, it was was glorious. You will not see a more accurate crossfield pass than the one from Souttar that found Mathew Leckie. His drilled cross found Craig Goodwin and he showed real composure with his finish.

Jason Cummings came on to lead the line for Australia in the second half.
Hide Ad

Alas, that was as good as it got. Adrien Rabiot equalised on 27 minutes. Then five minutes later Atkinson was cheaply dispossessed not far from goal and seconds later it was 2-1, Olivier Giroud tapping home. The second half was not much better. Cummings, a year ago wasting away on Dundee’s bench, came on to spearhead the Australia attack. What a story. He barely touched the ball but he was there, at the World Cup. Then Mbappe outjumped Rowles to make it 3-1 on 68 minutes and Giroud netted three minutes later. Australia had to dig in, their defence becoming more and more ragged. France played with them, a cat pawing at a tired mouse.

But Australia kept it to 4-1. They can be proud of their effort. Tunisia up next, on Saturday morning. Not easy, but easier than this. Set your watch for the next instalment of the SPFL at the World Cup.

Hide Ad
Dundee United left-back Aziz Behich showed plenty of energy.