Socceroos trying to ‘bounce back’ at Qatar World Cup against Tunisia after French drubbing

Home Sports Socceroos trying to ‘bounce back’ at Qatar World Cup against Tunisia after French drubbing
Socceroos trying to ‘bounce back’ at Qatar World Cup against Tunisia after French drubbing

For several minutes after the full-time whistle had blown in Australia’s 4-1 loss to France in the World Cup group stage on Wednesday, full-back Nathaniel Atkinson was seen standing by himself on the sideline, staring into the middle-distance.

We can’t know for sure what he was thinking. But after a game in which Paris Saint-Germain winger Kylian Mbappe had almost entirely eclipsed him, and where his heavy touch resulted in France’s second goal, it’s easy enough to assume where Atkinson’s mind went.

As the players and staff milled around, shaking hands and collecting their things before heading to the dressing room, Socceroos captain Mat Ryan walked towards Atkinson and put two reassuring hands on his shoulders. The goalkeeper spoke gently and at length to his young teammate, who nodded along, even while looking completely and utterly defeated.

Kylian Mbappe of France kicks the ball as Australian Socceroos player Nathaniel Atkinson tries to defend at the Qatar World Cup.
Kylian Mbappé (left) made sure Nathaniel Atkinson had a rough World Cup debut.(AP: Christophe Ena)

What do you say to a player – particularly someone aged just 23 and at the very start of their international career – after a match like that? How do you, to borrow a common Socceroos phrase, “bounce back” from a moment that could be the most disappointing, humiliating, or anxiety-inducing of your career, with another huge spotlight of a World Cup game just a few days away?

For some, like midfielder Jackson Irvine, emotional resilience is a skill just like any other in a footballer’s repertoire; something that needs to be tested and developed over time.

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