Socceroos coach Graham Arnold was in isolation with Covid but that didn’t stop his team keeping the World Cup dream on track.
When Tom Rogic is at his best, the Socceroos are a markedly better and more dangerous side.
Rogic‘s Player of the Match performance inspired Australia to an all-important 4-0 win over Vietnam, a victory which helped get their stuttering World Cup qualification campaign back on track after failing to win any of their last three games.
After being denied just 19 seconds into the match, Vietnam had no answers for the star as he scored a goal and set up another in a five-star performance.
The Celtic attacking-midfielder set up the opener for Jamie Maclaren before adding his side‘s second on the brink of half-time – capping off a nearly flawless performance in the middle of the park.
“We knew the significance of the game in terms of qualification,” Rogic said.
“I think it was a good performance from the team in general. We maybe got a little bit sloppy in the second half but overall, I think it‘s a good day’s work and I was just happy to be back playing in Australia,
“It‘s probably been a couple of years since before I’ve seen family and friends and stuff and there were a few in the crowd. So I was just happy to be back and enjoyed the night so it was a good night all around.”
Rogic’s absence was sorely felt during the last set of qualifiers back in November as the Socceroos fell out of the automatic qualification slots in Group B off the back of two consecutive draws against Saudi Arabia and China.
Assistant coach Rene Meulensteen, who filled in for absent coach Graham Arnold after the coach missed the match after testing positive to Covid last week, was full of praise for the returning Rogic and the qualities he brings to Australia’s midfield setup.
“There were a lot of outstanding performances tonight but Tommy was certainly one of them. Well deserved to be Man of the Match,” Meulensteen said.
“He was an enormous driving force for us, he picked up the right positions for us to play through the lines and then he‘s got that skill, ability and intelligence to find those clever passes to get in behind, to set it up,
“It was an outstanding performance for him all around and that‘s what you want from players of that calibre. They are the difference makers for us and he certainly did that tonight.”
Social media also went wild for Rogic’s incredible performance.
Meulensteen was full of praise for 27,740 fans in attendance, believing their energy helped provide a major boost to his side who continued to ride the wave of momentum after opening the scoring on the half-hour mark.
“You play (in front of) a home crowd which makes a massive, massive difference,” Meulensteen said.
“We were on the front foot. We‘ve got that attitude always, to expect every game that is our intent to always go on the front foot to put them under pressure and ask questions straight away,
“It just takes a while to break them down and we always knew that we would have more quality. It takes that quality to eventually break them down… Then it‘s all about building on that first goal – which we did.”
With Arnold‘s status for their next clash against Oman still unknown due to Covid protocols, Meulensteen may need to take the reins again in what shapes to be another must-win game on Wednesday morning (AEDT).