Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Australia 5-0 Palestine: World Cup 2026 qualifier – as it happened

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Key events

That was the high that the Socceroos wanted to finish the first phase of the qualification campaign on. Six wins from six matches, 22 goals scored and none conceded mean they have done all that they could.

Joey Lynch’s report on Australia’s 5-0 victory over Palestine explains more:

Graham Arnold is beaming like a proud father as he talks to Channel 10 about the most pleasing part of the evening: “The depth that we have been creating. I know how important it is that we have depth. Everyone probably panicked when I made eight or nine changes.”

The Socceroos coach saved special praise for Alessandro Circati, who he says was told that he would be held back in Bangladesh to instead appear in front of his hometown crowd: “I thought he was sensational. He’s a kid, he’s 20, but he’s one of the most mature 20-year-olds I’ve coached. I thought he was outstanding tonight.”

Arnold also explains why he prefers to play with two No 9s at the moment, describing it as “a bit old school” but the ideal way to help Kusini Yengi develop alongside a more experienced partner. The striker now has four goals in his past three matches for Australia.

Kusini Yengi scored two goals in a standout display as the Socceroos beat Palestine 5-0 in Perth. Photograph: Richard Wainwright/AAP
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Full-time! Australia 5-0 Palestine

The Socceroos have completed a clean sweep of six victories with six clean sheets across the first phase of their 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign.

Kusini Yengi scored a double, which included the opener from the spot, and was rightly named the player of the match.

Adam Taggart and Martin Boyle each picked up a goal to go along with an all-round stylish performance from the attackers including veteran Mat Leckie.

Substitute Nestory Irankunda added a fifth in the dying stages when stepping up to take a penalty after a handball off a corner, and scored his first international goal.

Alessandro Circati and Cameron Burgess were sound at the back and should give Australia coach Graham Arnold some welcome selection headaches.

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90 mins: Both sides are still moving the ball around swiftly, as Australia look to find a sixth goal and Palestine search for a consolation. There will be three minutes of stoppage time.

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GOAL! Australia 5-0 Palestine (Irankunda, 88)

Penalty! The referee has spotted a handball in the box off a Devlin corner, as Yaser Hamed has a flailing arm up above his head as it makes contact with the ball. It is a nice spot from the referee.

Irankunda steps up to take the penalty, calmly thundering the right-footed shot into the bottom left corner. It is a first senior international goal from the Bayern Munich-bound prodigy, and a taste of gymnastics is the icing on the cake.

Nestory Irankunda celebrates after scoring his first senior international goal for Australia against Palestine in Perth. Photograph: Richard Wainwright/EPA
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85 mins: Irankunda has moved more central up top now, as Graham Arnold looks for fresh ways to hold the ball in Australia’s attacking half. The teenage sensation almost turns nothing into something after bringing down a high ball then bursting into space, but his low cross is easily cleared.

82 mins: Yengi and Leckie make way now, and both have been excellent tonight. Cameron Devlin and Jordy Bos come into the action as the Socceroos look to take back control.

80 mins: Mustafa Zeidan takes the next shot but it is straight at Joe Gauci who collects on his knees. Australia have hardly been beyond the halfway mark in the past 10 minutes, no doubt frustrating recent subs Irankunda and Stamatelopoulos as the minutes tick by.

78 mins: Palestine are enjoying their best period of the match as their substitutions have breathed new life into their midfield and attack. Ameed Sawafta has a one-on-one opportunity in the box but stumbles as he looks to find a way past.

76 mins: The confirmed attendance tonight – 18,261 – is almost a full house at HBF Park in Perth.

74 mins: Jackson Irvine picks up a yellow card. The cautions are mounting up for Australia.

72 mins: Palestine have perhaps their best chance of the night, causing panic in the Australian defence then allowing Oday Dabbagh to blast a shot away – it takes a timely foot from the increasingly impressive Circati to clear the danger over the bar.

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70 mins: Martin Boyle is the next to make way with Nestory Irankunda coming on. This should be a much more appealing scenario for the young attacker to join, after the Bangladesh low block and beaten up pitch left the 18-year-old with little room to work his magic in his Socceroos debut.

67 mins: Metcalfe picks up a yellow card just minutes after coming onto the pitch. A heavy touch turned the ball over, and his diving lunge to win it back was deemed worth of a caution. The midfielder can’t hide his frustration, and it did look like he got enough the ball amid limited contact.

66 mins: Palestine are swinging the changes now as well, as all the hard work they have done in the first half begins to catch up with them. The sting has gone out of the game at the moment but Australia will want to keep pressing forward.

64 mins: Stamatelopoulos comes on for his senior international debut, while Connor Metcalfe joins him in place of Taggart and Baccus – the latter is on a yellow card tonight, with three in the qualifying round, so would not want to have earned another that would rule him out of the first match in the next phase.

Stamatelopoulos is the first Newcastle Jet player to debut for the Socceroos since 2018, after scoring 17 goals this season in a breakout campaign.

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60 mins: Taggart has made his way to the sideline and while he clearly wants to continue he seems to be resigning himself to the idea that his work here is done. Australia playing with 10 men at the moment, but having little trouble holding onto the ball.

Apostolos Stamatelopoulos is warming up for a run and first Socceroos cap.

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57 mins: Baccus opens up the Palestine defence with a sublime pass from the halfway line to find the surging Martin Boyle breaking clear into the box. The right-sided forward tries to chip the keeper but is blocked, as Adam Taggart racing in for the follow-up that is blocked just as he winds up for a shot. Taggart is down and looks to have taken a heavy blow to his right shin, but won’t want to come off with the Socceroos running rampant.

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GOAL! Australia 4-0 Palestine (Boyle, 53)

Kusini Yengi turns on the afterburners to stream through Palestine’s high line. The in-form forward adds a scything pass to find Adam Taggart racing into the box, who might have taken the shot but instead returns the favour to Martin Boyle in space and trailing slightly behind for a relatively easy tap in. The Australian attackers are enjoying themselves now!

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50 mins: Aziz Behich has been busy without being too prominent but he almost lit up HBF Park there with a blistering shot from out wide on the left. The ball flies across the face of goal but takes a deflection off a defender to take it away from danger as it heads out for a corner. That would have been some goal.

48 mins: Keanu Baccus picks up Australia’s first yellow card of the night, his third of the campaign. It was a light but late challenge and the caution seemed about right.

46 mins: We’re back under way and Graham Arnold has stuck with the same Australia XI that he started with. Palestine make the one change.

Half-time: Australia 3-0 Palestine

A double for Kusini Yengi, including one from the spot, either side of a goal to hometown hero Adam Taggart has put the Socceroos in command.

The penalty, and perhaps the third for offside, might have been contentious but the Socceroos never looked likely to concede at the other end.

Yengi is now looking at ease at this level when leading the line, with neat control whether with his chest or feet, and a ruthless streak growing that the Socceroos have craved for years (and years).

Circati has done all that he could to impress in defence, getting a boot in when required, finding himself in the right places just like a veteran might, and using the ball smartly when looking to bypass the midfield.

For all their effort and endeavour, Palestine have had one shot on target and that was blocked by Circati as keeper Gauci gets through another 45 minutes without being able to show his wares.

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45+3 mins: Australia almost snatch another on the cusp of half-time but Leckie’s header takes a deflection off Rashid to fly out for a corner. Australia earn a second corner but little comes of it.

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44 mins: The Palestine bench are incensed at Yengi’s second goal. Boyle was teetering on the brink of being offside in the build up, though equally might have been played onside by the defender marking Yengi closer to the middle of the pitch. With no VAR to put us out of our misery tonight we may never know, but it certainly looked like a call that could have gone either way.

GOAL! Australia 3-0 Palestine (Yengi, 41)

Yengi shows plenty of class and composure on the edge of the six-yard box, with deft touches taking the ball away from a pair of closing Palestine defenders, as the forward finds space to stretch the Socceroos’ lead.

Martin Boyle made the run down the right to open up the Palestine defence then might have taken on the shot himself, but just as he did when lining up Taggart about 15 minutes ago, unselfishly found a teammate instead for a second assist of the night.

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38 mins: A moment of reflection across the stadium as there is a round of applause to honour Dylan Tombides – a former Australian youth national team player – who passed away 10 years ago at the age of 20 due to testicular cancer.

The Socceroos are partnering with the DT38 foundation tonight, a fine tribute to the talented footballer and young man. Here is more about Dylan Tombides:

34 mins: Palestine spot another glimmer of hope on the counter, which looks like their most probable avenue to goal. But yet again the Australian defensive line has it covered as the visitors struggle to get enough numbers into the box. Circati was the one to get a foot in at the pivotal time, he’s certainly made the most of his opportunity so far tonight.

31 mins: Palestine are brushing away the scoreline and working their way into this match, trying to find a way through the Socceroos’ defence that is yet to concede a goal in this qualification campaign. A tough challenge on the edge of the D has the visitors up in arms, then a speculative long shot gives Joe Gauci a moment of concern until he scurries back to his line to collect.

GOAL! Australia 2-0 Palestine (Taggart, 26)

Leckie again wins the ball in the middle of the pitch, releases to Martin Boyle all alone on the right hand side. Boyle presses forward with only the keeper to beat, but rather than shooting he cuts back to Adam Taggart charging toward the six-yard box to slam in a goal in his hometown.

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24 mins: Leckie pounces on a mistake from Rashid, winning the ball in a duel following the defender’s heavy touch. The veteran has sight of goal but instead of driving forward decided to cut back onto his right and the shot is blocked.

22 mins: Circati is finding fresh ways to stand out, as the defender hits pinpoint long balls from the right across field to attacking third.

19 mins: Neither side has been able to settle and exert enough control yet, with loose passes and a lack of patience ensuring possession is flipped back and forth. It at least makes for a vastly more entertaining encounter than the one we saw in Dhaka last week.

16 mins: Circati more than makes up for his wayward header with a last-gasp lunge that blocks a shot from Mohammed Rashid. The Palestine No 3 was on the end of a series of swift one-touch passes that moved the ball from end-to-end before the hosts had time to support their defence. Rashid thumps the ground in frustration, that was quite the chance that went begging.

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13 mins: Alessandro Circati takes his turn to almost score in front of family and friends in his hometown, but heads wide from a corner when probably should have tested the keeper.

11 mins: This might in some ways be a dead rubber, but there is plenty of feeling in the contest. There is a moment of chaos in the box as Palestine fail to clear a simple ball and it spills to Adam Taggart just inside the box, the hometown attacker opens up but his shot is blocked. Corner to the Socceroos.

8 mins: The Socceroos have their tails up now as the Palestine defence still look riled up by the referee’s call to point to the spot. But the visitors need to switch back on and get their head back into the game before they fall further behind.

GOAL! Australia 1-0 Palestine (Yengi, 5)

Aziz Behich charges into the box and is little threat until tumbling to ground in a dramatic fashion after a light collision with Yaser Hamed. A penalty is awarded! That looked harsh on the visitors, but there is no VAR to intervene.

Kusini Yengi steps up to take the spotkick, wrapping his right boot around the ball and finding the bottom left corner. Palestine keeper Rami Hamada got a fingertip to it but couldn’t keep the ball out of the net.

Yengi has now scored in three Socceroos games in a row.

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2 mins: Palestine make a bright start, knocking the ball around the top of the box and winning it back quickly whenever Australia get a foot on it. A Palestine cross is cleared but the danger remains for Australia until a cheap free kick is given to the home side.

Kick-off!

We are underway at HBF Park for the first Socceroos match in Perth for eight years as they face Palestine with both sides already assured of progressing to the next phase of World Cup qualifiers.

Australia are in their traditional yellow and green strip with the eye-catching white socks, while Palestine are decked out in red.

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For a reminder of how the Socceroos beat Bangladesh with a less than convincing 2-0 scoreline last week, admittedly while navigating not only hot and humid conditions but also a rough and ready pitch, catch up on Joey’s report:

Joey Lynch spoke to Palestine players ahead of the match, and as you’d expect there was a bigger story hanging over each of the conversations:

“[Bringing joy] is our only motivation right now,” said midfielder Mohammed Rashid. “This is what keeps us working on the pitch. There’s really nothing else to work for.”

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Australia XI

As through much of this qualification campaign, Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has mixed the old with the new to see what shakes out.

Jackson Irvine will again wear the captain’s armband, while Joe Gauci steps in for usual skipper Mat Ryan (rested) in goals.

Alessandro Circati will play his first senior international on home soil in his hometown Perth, while fellow Western Australians Adam Taggart and Cameron Burgess are also in the starting XI.

Kusini Yengi is the third player from the Socceroos starting XI against Bangladesh to back up tonight, along with the captain and gloveman. The striker gets another opportunity to impress after goals in his past two matches with the Socceroos, while Mat Leckie and Martin Boyle will add width and experience.

Regular starters Mitch Duke and Kye Rowles are out of the line-up completely to avoid any risk of picking up a yellow card that would rule them out of the first match in the next qualifying round. The number of cautions will be wiped after tonight, so all players start with a clean slate in the next phase.

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Preamble

Martin Pegan

Hello and welcome to live coverage of the 2026 World Cup qualifier between Australia and Palestine. Kick-off at HBF Park in Perth is 8:05pm local time / 10:05pm AEST.

This is the Socceroos’ last of six matches in the second round of qualification, which has somewhat confusingly also been the first stage of the side’s campaign to reach the 48-team tournament in North America.

Australia’s passage to the next stage is well and truly assured but they will be out to finish on a high after taking maximum points (15) so far, while also piling on 17 goals without conceding through five matches.

Sealing qualification early in the group has allowed coach Graham Arnold to hand more international minutes to budding stars and revitalised talents, and we can expect more of the same as the Socceroos face the side ranked 93rd in the world in Palestine.

Australia sit 69 ranking places higher than tonight’s opponents in 24th, but crucially need another victory to leapfrog South Korea in 23rd (and currently only 0.06 ranking points ahead) to be the second-highest ranked Asian team behind Iran (20th).

That would place the Socceroos in pot one for the next round of World Cup qualifiers that begin in September – which should, in theory, earn an easier draw.

But we know Australian football rarely likes to take the easy path, and they only edged to a 1-0 victory over Palestine when the two sides met in November in Kuwait under the considerable cloud of an escalating war in Gaza.

That war is of course still ongoing, which makes it all the more remarkable that Palestine have also qualified for the next phase with one game to spare, after claiming two wins and two draws from their five matches. Their only loss has been to Australia, which sets us up for a tighter contest than might otherwise have been expected.

We’ll get to the team news next, but if you want to get in touch now or throughout the match, please email martin.pegan@theguardian.com or HMU on X / Twitter @martinpegan

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