Daniel Arzani to rescue as Socceroos struggle to beat Hungary


Beyond all point of conjecture, the hype surrounding Daniel Arzani appears to have been justified. With his first touches of the ball after coming on as a substitute, the highly-rated teenager scored his first international goal and played a pivotal role in Australia's second as the Socceroos' sealed a shakey 2-1 win over Hungary. A solo run, a long-range strike and a hint of generous goalkeeper provided Arzani with his first goal for the Soccceroos' before the teenager laid the platform for the eventual winner in extra-time.

The short cameo of the youngest player to enter the 2018 World Cup was the brightest note for Australia coach Bert van Marwijk from a friendly that was all to do with how Australia will play against France in their opening group match. If the match in Budapest was the final test, it suggests Arzani could have a big role to play in that match.

The Dutch coach was frustrated by a more sluggish and error-ridden performance from the Socceroos than their first warm-up game against Czech Republic a week ago. Much of that had to do with the tired signs from the starting side that was unchanged from their 4-0 win over the Czechs and were visibly fatigued after the gruelling camp in between.

"The first half was, in my opinion, a bad performance," van Marwijk said. “Maybe some journalists saw it that we worked very hard for the last three weeks and the last few days we are a little bit more relaxed but today I saw, already, maybe after half an hour that we were very tired."

They were lucky to avoid conceding when Hungary striker Adam Szala hesitated a near post tap in though for the most part, the hosts chances came from Australia's lapses and errors. When Mark Milligan spilled the ball to Roland Varga deep inside his own half, he gave the Magyars a perfect chance to open the scoring. Varga then played striker Adam Szalai through on goal for a simple finish. He was denied that by a smart block from goalkeeper Mat Ryan, taking enough pace off the shot to allow Massimo Luongo to make a goal line clearance.

Only the crossbar denied Hungary a spectacular goal seven minutes before the break as Laszlo Kleinheisler's long-range volley caught Ryan off-guard but bounced off the woodwork. The Socceroos' for fortunate to be level by the break after Hungary captain Tamas Kadar's header from a corner was cleared off the line by Josh Risdon on the stroke of half time.


It was little surprise to see van Marwijk make three changes at the break to add some, giving Tomi Juric, Mile Jedinak and goalkeeper Brad Jones their first game time since forming camp.

The introduction of Jedinak lead to an immediate solidification of Australia's midfield and defensive formation. While leaving the armband with defender Trent Sainsbury, Jedinak's leadership coincided with more organisation without the ball. However, Australia still struggled to create clear chances.

That was until the reinforcements arrived off the bench. Jackson Irvine was injected into the contest. The Hull City attacking midfielder received a cut back on the edge of the area and forced the first meangingful save from goalkeeper Denes Dibusz with a curling right-foot shot.

Still looking for more pace and energy, van Marwijk turned to the prodigal 19-year-old winger who immediately rewarded the show of faith. Within a minute of coming on, Arzani opened his account for Australia with his first touches of the ball. It was in his trademark fashion – causing hesitation on his marking, seizing upon indecision with a burst of power and on the end of a short dribble, he curled in a swerving right foot shot. Hungary would have been wanting more from their goalkeeper, Gulacsi who perhaps may have been unsighted as Arzani's shot bounced into the far corner of the net.

However, the gloss of his debut goal was taken buffed off by a calamitous moment of defending. Australia's weary backline were their own undoing in the 88th minute as Sainsbury headed past Jones into his own net to give Hungary a late equaliser.

Not to be outdone, Hungary's Kadar turned a cross into his own net in injury time to give Australia a plucky win in Budapest, ensuring they enter Russia with a perfect record from their warm-up games.

Dominic Bossi

Dominic Bossi is a football reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.

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