20/04/2024

The Pararoos and the USA line-up pre-game before the National Anthems at Cromer Park. Photo Credit: Steven Poletti

Cromer Park in Sydney’s Northern Beaches played host to the Australian Pararoos as the side played at home in front of a crowd since 2019.

They welcomed the USA as their opponent for the special occasion after playing a behind-closed-doors match against the same side earlier in the week, ending 2-0 for the visitors.

The visiting side proved to be a tough challenge for the Australians, as both sides had their fair share of chances in a hotly contested first half but it was still locked at nil-all as the sides made their way back into the sheds for the halftime break.

The second half brought about a string of chaos as the Americans came out firing to open the second half, delivering chance after chance but could not find a way past goalkeeper and captain David Barber, who was arguably Australia’s most important player in this match. 

“Honestly, you just take it a moment at a time,” Barber said when asked about how he handled the barrage of shots from the USA, speaking to The Inner Sanctum post-game. 

“If you start thinking about too many of them, then you’re going to miss one.

“A couple of days ago we played them in a friendly and I made a mental mistake where I didn’t come early enough and conceded so I wanted to make sure today I was on point with my positioning and doing as much as I can to help the guys around me with my voice as much as anything else and they did the rest.”

“We just take every shot at a time,” Pararoo Daniel Campbell said post-game to The Inner Sanctum.

“Every time they take a shot, just re-group, get ready, just get back into formation, just keep going and never give up.”

For the Americans, who were the ones creating all the chances, could not think about all the saves being made by Barber.

“You don’t stop. You’re more worried about that win in the end,” USA captain Joshua Brunais said post-game to The Inner Sanctum.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s the first second of the game or the last second of the game, we’re going to keep taking shots on target and we’re going to win that game.

“That’s our mentality. Everybody here knows we don’t coast, we don’t let anybody get in our heads. We just keep our game plan going and as you could see we were shooting up until the last minute.”

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Both sides continued to trade incredible chances throughout the rest of the second half but the game would end as it started, with neither side troubling the score sheet.

For the home side, it was their best result against the USA in over 20 years, and Barber was full of praise for the squad.

“It’s awesome. The last time we beat them was in 2001. They’re as good as any team in the world right now and they deserve their world ranking.

“To come out here today and hold them to a nil-all draw, not only just hold them but make chances for ourselves where we could have taken the game away from them, that’s probably the most promising thing.”

While it was a celebratory occasion for the home side, it was not for the visitors.

“If I’m being honest, I’m pretty disappointed,” Brunais said when asked post-game about the team’s performance.

“We could have done better. We definitely gave that game away. We’ve proved in the past we are the better team. We clearly controlled possession, multiple shots.

“Their goalie had an amazing game, [and] credit to him. The team defended well, but I felt like we broke them down and it just wasn’t on our cards and we just didn’t finish well today.”

Ben Roche of the Pararoos and John Sullivan of the USA compete for a ball during the game. Photo Credit: Pararoos/Twitter

The two matches this week were also historic for another reason, as David Barber became the most capped Pararoo, notching up caps 105 and 106.

“It’s awesome,” Barber said post-game. 

“There’s been so many players I’ve been able to share the field with over the years.

“The fact I’ve been lucky enough to stay capable of making the team is something I’m really proud of because we’ve got a lot of awesome guys that really push hard for positions now.

“That’s the strength of a good squad is when you’ve got so many good players that even just making one team is hard work.

“I’m actually really proud of it, to hang in there. It doesn’t come just from me. It comes from a lot of people in the background doing so much more.”

1027 people turned up to Cromer Park to watch the game, and for Campbell, getting to play in front of a crowd like that is enjoyable.

“It’s always great playing at home, especially in front of all my friends and family.

“It’s so good seeing so much support come out and support us.”

For Barber, the support of each and every one of those people can not be understated.

“It’s amazing [getting to play in front of a crowd like that].

“When it gets tough in the back end of that half when it was hot and everyone was tired, that 1027 people make all the difference in the world because that’s that little bit extra that you need to hang in there and they helped get us over the line today.

“We can be forever grateful for that.”

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