After Western United knocked Melbourne Victory at the Australia Cup, their boss John Aloisi placed Ben Garuccio and Josh Risdon firmly in World Cup selection discussions, writes Sacha Pisani from AAMI Park.
It was Western United’s first game of the 2022-23 season but Ben Garuccio and Josh Risdon continued where they left off on Wednesday night.
Western’s Player of the Season in 2021-22, in-form left-back Garuccio set up the game-winning goal as the Isuzu UTE A-League champions dethroned Australia Cup holders Melbourne Victory 2-1 in the Round of 32.
Garuccio, who has taken his game to a new level since arriving at Western last season, got in behind Victory’s defence to tee up Lachlan Wales’ 54th-minute winner at AAMI Park.
As for right-back and captain Risdon, he was solid defensively as Western reached the last 16 for the first time in their history.
With the World Cup looming on the horizon, John Aloisi feels both Garuccio and Risdon – who was at the 2018 tournament – should be in Graham Arnold’s Qatar 2022 calculations.
“If Ben Garuccio isn’t knocking on the door, I’m sure he should be knocking on the door of the national team,” said Western head coach Aloisi, whose side will face NPLM NSW outfit Sydney United for a spot in the quarter-finals.
“If he keeps up the performances like he has been, along with Josh Risdon, they might be a chance of being in Arnie’s thoughts for the squad.”
Another player thriving under Aloisi is Wales.
His form with the A-League Men champions has thrown his name among the potential Socceroos bolters.
“I had a good chat with Lachie before he went on holiday about he needs to keep improving,” said Aloisi, who praised the mentality and character of Western after Victory dominated for large spells.
“He is working on that and we are working with him on that. To get into those areas and goalscoring positions. People say he doesn’t score a lot of goals and it’s true for the quality he has because he needs to get in those areas for those tap-ins.
“I don’t care about him scoring worldies, he isn’t there to score worldies, he is there to score tap-ins. It was perfect for him because he got in at the back post and scored the goal we want from him.”
Victory, who already had 90 minutes under their belt following last month’s friendly against Premier League giants Manchester United, came out on the front foot in a rematch of the ALM semi-final.
Chris Ikonomidis had a couple of early chances, but George Timotheou’s 24th-minute own goal gifted Western the lead.
Another Jake Brimmer special – a stunning strike brought Victory level three minutes into the second half, only for Wales to restore Western’s lead six minutes later.
While Victory crashed out, it was another example of Brimmer’s quality, with the reigning Johnny Warren Medallist making it three incredible long-range goals against Western in three matches.
“Wonderful,” Victory head coach Tony Popovic said of Brimmer’s latest golazo.
“He is such a talented player and that just showed his talent. A goal like that should bring you a win. That’s the disappointing part. We created a lot and got in fantastic areas.”
“He is come in really good shape after the off-season. He wants to assist more and score more,” he added.
“The next step is to score more from inside the box because that’s the next part of his game, getting those simple goals. Simple assists. He is a boy that wants to improve and get better.”
There was also a first taste of AAMI Park for Victory marquee and Manchester United great Nani.
Nani came off the bench in the closing stages and almost snatched an equaliser as his looping effort forced Jamie Young to push the ball onto the crossbar.
“You could see he is a winner but a very talented footballer. He gave us a real spark when he came on.
“We still have to get to know him, and he has to know us, the players, the movements. The more he trains with us, he looks happy. Our goal is get him ready for that first match.”
“He is a fantastic professional,” Popovic continued. “No surprise he has played at such a high level for so long. He wants to win and he is at the right football club for that.”