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England v Australia: Recalling the Socceroos’ victory 20 years ago

| 10.10.2023

England face Australia on Friday in an international friendly and while they are clear favourites for victory, history tells us an upset is not out of the question.

While an away win at Wembley this week is 14/1 in the England v Australia odds, those with long memories may be tempted.

The two teams have only met twice before in England, and Australia came out on top in the first of those 20 years in a match which was a memorable one for a variety of reasons.

The result, a 3-1 win for the Socceroos, was chastening for the hosts, while manager Sven-Goran Eriksson took the unusual step of substituting his entire XI at half-time in a pre-planned move to reduce the workload of senior men and introduce new blood to the squad.

To get us in the mood for Friday’s match, we recall five things you might have forgotten about that night.

1. It was played at Upton Park. The only time West Ham’s now defunct home was used to stage a full England international. Argentina and Croatia played there in a friendly 11 years later.

2. Wayne Rooney made his debut but other newcomers proved less suited to the top level. Rooney’s arrival is probably the defining image of the day, but the likes of James Beattie, Jermaine Jenas, Paul Robinson and Francis Jeffers also made their bow. Of those Robinson came closest to a meaningful international career but is best remembered for his costly clanger against Croatia in 2008.

3. Jeffers may not have enjoyed the bright career he was widely forecast to have, indeed he did not play for England again despite poaching a consolation against Australia. Having scored a joint record 13 goals for the under-21s he was left hanging on one goal and one cap.

4. It was the old guard that lost the game. Having gone with a strong and experienced XI to start the game, Eriksson saw his tried and trusted team go in 2-0 down at half-time as Tony Popovic and Harry Kewell netted. The young lions were actually even for their 45 minute stay, Jeffers’ goal cancelled out by Brett Emerton.

5. David Beckham was not a captain who habitually rocked the boat or used strong words where softer ones would do. But he was stung by the result and fronted up well after the game – showing an early sign of the steely streak which would sustain him through a richly-decorated career.

“The manager had no choice in the matter,” he said of the mass substitutions. “The club-versus-country thing has been a big issue all week and was sort of topped off with the way things went on the night. “We got booed off at half-time, which is not much fun and very frustrating. But what was more frustrating for me was the 11 young lads out there in the second half also getting the same treatment.”

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Andrew McDermott

Andrew is a sports betting content journalist at PA Media. He is a lifelong Huddersfield Town fan but when he isn't reminiscing about their Premier League days he is also a junior cricket coach and enjoys cycling.