Socceroos: Former Hibs trio and Hearts pair involved as just one game stands between Australia and 2022 World Cup

Former Hibs attacker Martin Boyle was named man of the match as his performance helped take Australia to within one game of the 2022 World Cup with a 2-1 defeat of the UAE in Doha.

Wednesday, 8th June 2022, 2:50 pm

The Socceroos face Peru in the final play-off round, hoping to beat a team sitting 20 places above them in the FIFA rankings to reach Qatar later this year. Graham Arnold’s side have taken a circuitous route to the finals, easing through the second round of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) qualifying with eight wins from eight, but they struggled in the next round and finished third behind Saudi Arabia and Japan in the automatic qualification places.

That set up a fourth-round against the UAE who had finished third in Group A, with the winners advancing to the interconfederation play-off final against Peru, who finished fifth in CONMEBOL qualifying.

The two nations had faced off six times prior to the play-off with Ali Mabkhout’s 68th-minute goal giving the UAE victory in the most recent meeting, a quarter-final clash in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup in January 2019 which Boyle had missed through injury.

But the Al-Faisaly forward had a big say in the outcome of the seventh meeting.

After the UAE had tested Maty Ryan in the first half and opening period of the second, the 29-year-old teed up former Easter Road colleague Jackson Irvine for the Socceroos’ opener, evading the attentions of a couple of defenders and sending in a low cross that the St Pauli midfielder tucked past Khalid Eisa from close range.

Within five minutes the UAE had levelled; Harib Al-Maazmi winning the ball on the left and when Australia failed to clear his cross, Brazilian-born Caio Canedo lashed the equaliser into the roof of the net from the edge of the six-yard box.

Craig Goodwin then fired over from Irvine’s back-post cross and another former Hibee in Jamie Maclaren, on as a substitute for Goodwin, forced a fine save from Eisa.

The Socceroos starting XI for the 2-1 victory over UAE. Jackson Irvine and Kye Rowles are back row, third left and third right, while Nathaniel Atkinson is front row extreme right and Martin Boyle is front row, third from right

Minutes later, from a corner, Al-Maazmi’s header dropped to Eintracht Frankfurt’s Ajdin Hrustić on the edge of the box and the Europa League-winner’s first-time volley found the net via a wicked deflection off Ali Salmeen that wrong-footed Eisa and sealed victory for the Socceroos.

Speaking afterwards Boyle said: “It was a tough one but the most disappointing thing was that after scoring we conceded straight away.

"But we showed good character, I think we dominated the majority of the game, and took our chances when they came.

"We controlled the game, kept the ball well, and kept them to minimal chances. We got the breakthrough thanks to a deflection but the main thing is it’s in the net, but it’s only job half-done, we need to dust ourselves down, prepare, and go again.

Irvine and Rowles celebrate at full-time

"My dad and uncle made the journey and this is the first time he’s seen me represent Australia – I saw a tear in his eye during the anthem so it means everything to me and I’ll dedicate this to my family as well."

Hearts defender Nathaniel Atkinson played the full 90 minutes at right-back while Tynecastle new boy Kye Rowles joined him in the back four at left-sided centre-back.

Left - right: Boyle, Atkinson, and Ajdin Hrustic celebrate Australia's winner