The Socceroos and Argentina will renew their recent rivalry with a friendly match to be played in Beijing, as an Australian national sporting team makes a rare appearance on Chinese soil on 15 June.
Lionel Messi was on the scoresheet as he led his team to a 2-1 victory over the Socceroos in the last 16 at last year’s World Cup in Qatar, on the South Americans’ way to becoming world champions for a third time.
Another meeting has long been rumoured to take place, with coach Graham Arnold having indicated his desire for the game to go ahead, saying last month that he had “goosebumps” just thinking of the prospect.
Arnold pointed to the importance of playing top-quality teams ahead of a new World Cup cycle and an Asian Cup campaign in January next year, with a clash against England at Wembley already in the diary for 14 October.
Football Australia on Monday confirmed the latest fixture, and it is hoped the match at the Workers’ Stadium in Beijing opens the door to more games against big-name opposition, but on home soil in the future.
“I do think if we become a regular team in the upper echelon of world football, then coming out to Australia, despite its distance, may not seem so far for people,” FA chief executive, James Johnson, said.
“If you want a seat at the world football table, these are the things you’ve got to do. You’ve got to host big competitions, like the Women’s World Cup. You’ve got to play big opposition like Argentina, you’ve got to play at Wembley – you’ve got to do that.
“On the women’s side, you’ve got to play the best in the world, you’ve got to play the United States.
“If you look at all these examples, in isolation, you might not see the strategy. If you bring it all together, though, there is an undertone which is, ‘We’re Australia, we’re here, we’re at the seat now and we want to stay at the world table.’”
Kick-off will be at 10pm AEST, and it will be the first time the two sides have met since the nail-biting encounter at in December that saw the Socceroos’ thrilling run come to an end.
The Socceroos last played in China in 2008, as part of their World Cup qualifying campaign, and the upcoming match will be the first time since early 2020 that a senior Australian national sporting team has competed in China.
Planning for the fixture had the support of both nation’s governments, as well as FA and its counterpart the Chinese Football Association.
“It’s been 15 years since our senior men’s national team played in China, and we are truly excited to be returning to face Argentina at the newly renovated Workers’ Stadium in Beijing,” Johnson said.
The match is almost certain to sell out, with previous visits by Messi having attracted huge interest in China. The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner has played in China six times since 2005, but has not been to the country for six years.
Argentina will also play Indonesia in Jakarta four days later.
It will be the first time Arnold’s team have played since the home friendlies against Ecuador in March this year.