Australian football legend Craig Foster said that the Socceroos should take heart from the performances of Croatia and Morocco – and use them as a reminder of what more investment in football could look like down under.
Foster is already on the record that Australia’s goals need to be loftier than simply making the knockout stages of the tournament – and the past few games are a great example of what could be possible.
Speaking on Nine’s Today, the former Socceroos captain said that the performances of the two relatively-small footballing nations should be taken as inspiration.
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“It gives hope to places like Australia as well, right? Croatia only has four million people, Morocco, the first Arabic nation (to qualify for a World Cup semi-final), which is huge given that it’s being hosted in the Arabic World, in the Middle East,” he said.
“It’s a really wonderful story in what has been a really problematic World Cup.”
Morocco stunned Portugal – and their superstar forward Cristiano Ronaldo – with a 1-0 win in the quarter-finals.
“This is the beautiful moment, not for Cristiano Ronaldo, of course – it looks like he’s likely to retire,” Foster said.
“At 37, he’s unlikely to be back here again – and because Lionel Messi’s still in with Argentina and has the opportunity to win – you saw tears from him, I’m quite sure that was part of it.”
But the story isn’t Ronaldo, or Messi, or any other global phenomenon – it’s the underdogs from North Africa, who have shocked the world.
“For Morocco, these scenes have gone all around the world, and everyone has joined with them and taken them to heart. A fabulous team,” Foster said.
“[Walid] Regragui is the first Middle Eastern, first African and first Arabic coach to make the semi-final of a World Cup.
“Ninety-two years we’ve been waiting for an African nation to make the final four, so this is a really special moment.”
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Foster said as great as the story had been, it was unlikely they could beat France on Wednesday morning (AEDT).
”They’re just too strong – you saw them against England, they actually weren’t at their best, but they have so many good players,” Foster said.
“They’ve probably got too much. Morocco have got an amazing counter-attack, the best in this World Cup – but France are very strong defensively.”
In the other half of the bracket, Argentina will play Croatia in a battle between the beaten finalists of 2014 and 2018.
Foster is backing Argentina to get the job done, setting up a battle of the megapowers in the final, but added that it had been such an unpredictable tournament that nothing could be ruled out.
“It looks likely an Argentina-France final, but you can’t bet against Croatia – everyone knows that,” he said.
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