43 mins: Estupinan’s delivery this time is not good though, and the ball runs all the way out the other side of the box.
42 mins: Ecuador get some breathing space now, as Caicedo draws a foul from Souttar on the break. And now the visitors have another chance to get the ball into the Australia box.
41 mins: Mabil fires it into the mixer, low and hard, and it causes a moment of consternation before the ball is cleared.
40 mins: Estupinan collides with his own keeper, spectacularly so as he does a somersault, but it’ll be a corner to Australia…
39 mins: That’s a great ball in from an Ecuador free-kick… it’s angled beautifully beyond the back line, and Ryan needs two bites at the cherry before holding onto the ball.
38 mins: Every time Preciado’s name is mentioned by the commentator, I hear Bresciano, and am taken back to the years of the golden generation…
37 mins: Debutant Aiden O’Neill is urged by the crowd to shoot as the ball falls to him kindly 25 yards out. He can’t resist… it’s a decent effort, on target, but straight at Ramirez, who makes a comfortable save.
35 mins: Ecuador have had 58% of possession so far, according to the latest stats. But they’ve been the sloppier of the two sides, crucially.
34 mins: Mitch Duke shows some lovely skills for a big man down on the byline but his prod goalwards doesn’t reach its intended target. Still, the Wanderers fans in this crowd loved that.
33 mins: The crowd are alive again now. That was a tremendous finish from Mabil, the Young Australian of the Year of course. But questions will have to be asked of the Ecuador defence at the break. What were they thinking there?
GOAL! Australia 2-1 Ecuador (Mabil 32)
Commentator’s curse? Absolutely! Mabil thunders Australia back into the lead! It’s awful for Ecuador, who botch their attempt to play out from the back. Irvine catches Bayer Leverkusen’s Hincapie in possession, the ball falls kindly for Mabil, who unleashes a rocket into the roof of the net!
30 mins: Half an hour on the clock and it’s all square. That break in play as Sarmiento was treated has just taken the sting out of the game for the moment.
28 mins: And this is a shame for Ecuador – Sarmiento can’t carry on. He’s off, and will be replaced by Alexander Alvarado.
27 mins: We’ll have a break in play now, with Sarmiento down injured. A chance for the players to grab a drink.
25 mins: That really was a prodigious leap from Torres, who rose like a salmon in between two gold shirts to nod home. No celebration at all from the Ecuadorian.
GOAL! Australia 1-1 Ecuador (Torres, 23)
It’s a poor free-kick from Mena, whose low delivery hits the first man and cleared, but is recycled by Sarmiento, who does manage to get his cross right, finding the leaping Torres, who powers a header into the back of the net! One-one!
21 mins: Behich is booked for a pull on the shirt of Preciado, who had completely done the Socceroos left-back. Free-kick in a dangerous area for Ecuador now…
19 mins: Excitement as some neat approach play from Duke, playing on his former home ground of course, raises volume levels inside the stadium.
18 mins: Australia have found their feet in this game now, after what was a sluggish start. Duke wins a free-kick in the middle of the park after Caicedo hauls him down. Souttar take it, backwards to Ryan.
17 mins: Nice from Mabil, who scoops the ball with the outside of his boot to release a teammate on the right wing. Nothing comes of it this time though.
15 mins: Ecuador look to hit back straight away through Estupinan, but this time the ref’s whistle sounds, and it’ll be an Australia free-kick.
13 mins: There was a sniff of offside there, as the ball came in from Goodwin to Duke, but the lino didn’t spot it and there’s no VAR tonight, so the goal stands.
GOAL! Australia 1-0 Ecuador (Irvine 12)
A Craig Goodwin free-kick finds Duke at the back stick, who stretches to volley the ball back across the face of the goal, where Irvine is waiting to fire home first time! Australia lead!
12 mins: Straight down to the other end and Mitch Duke’s cross is only partially cleared, the ball falls to Mabil, but he dithers and the chance goes begging!
11 mins: Caicedo pings over a cross this time and the Cifientes wastes the first real chance of the night! His downward header is straight at Ryan, who picks up easily.
10 mins: Estupinan sends the dead ball into the Socceroos’ box, but it’s floated in rather than pinged, and easy enough to head away.
9 mins: Baccus collides with Estrada, both players go down, but the referee gives the free-kick Ecuador’s way. Australia will have to be on their toes here….
7 mins: Goodwin now, on the left flank, fires in a low cross which promises danger. Cleared this time by the Ecuador defence.
6 mins: Back Ecuador go to Ramirez again. He pumps it upfield towards Sarmiento, but he’s unable to bring the ball under his control. Still, Ecuador retain possession and there’s a brief moment of unease as Degenek is unable to clear from inside his own box. The Socceroos do eventual clear their lines this time though.
5 mins: That’s not great distribution from Ryan though, who plays the ball straight out of play. A bit ragged from the Socceroos so far.
4 mins: Ecuador win the ball back soon enough and play the ball all the way back to Ramirez in between the sticks. But possession is ceded shortly afterwards and now Australia will have a chance to play the ball around a bit.
3 mins: This is, um, speculative at best from Estrada, who might have spotted Ryan off his line and tries his luck with a 40-yard lob. It doesn’t trouble the Socceroos keeper at all.
2 mins: Ecuador get the ball moving with some neat passing in the opening exchanges as they look to build from the back.
Peeeep! First half under way
1 min: And we’re finally off, well behind the scheduled 8pm kick-off.
A quick note before kick-off – Australia in their usual gold shirts, with green shorts and white socks; Ecuador in navy blue shirts and socks tonight, with white shorts. I’ll be honest, I like the visitors’ kit, very nice.
The Welcome to Country is delivered by Julie Jones, Darug Knowledge Holder. Beautifully done. And now for the national anthems, Ecuador first up.
Here we are then. The teams are ready, all serious faces in the tunnel until an Australian team mascot makes massive Harry Souttar crack a smile. Out they come, to pyrotechnics and a healthy enough cheer from the half-filled stands.
It’s far from a sell-out tonight. A sub-20,000 crowd does sound a bit disappointing to be honest.
The lights have gone out at CommBank Stadium, dramatically so. Assume that means the players will be making an entrance shortly.
Some Opta insights for you to mull over before the teams come out into CommBank Stadium:
This will be just the second meeting between Australia and Ecuador in men’s internationals and the first since March 2014 when Ecuador won 4-3 on the day after trailing 3-0 at the half-time break.
Australia have lost only one of their last 10 men’s internationals on home soil (W7 D2), keeping five clean sheets in the last six games in that span; their only loss was a 2-0 defeat to Japan in March 2022.
Ecuador will be looking to avoid back-to-back defeats in men’s internationals for the first time since June 2021 after losing 2-1 to Senegal in their last game; they were unbeaten in nine straight games prior to that loss (W3 D6).
Craig Goodwin (Australia) scored two goals and made two assists across his nine appearances for the Socceroos in 2022; he was the only player to score and assist multiple goals for Australia across the year.
Mat Ryan is the only player in the current Socceroos squad from the Australia team that lost to Ecuador 4-3 in their last meeting in March 2014; Matthew Leckie (unavailable due to injury) also started in that game.
Weather update: The rain that has been coming down intermittently all day in Sydney has cleared for now. There’s a chance of some further drizzle after kick-off, but nothing major.
It’s not just Arnold who has recently signed a new contract – his assistant René Meulensteen will stick around for another “cycle” too. Football Australia confirmed the deal earlier this evening (although Arnold appeared to let slip the news during his pre-match presser yesterday), so when the Football Australia statement landed, it was hardly a surprise.
“The potential, the opportunities, and the challenges that lie ahead are the reasons why I’ve chosen to sign on for a further campaign,” the former Manchester United first team coach said.
Arnold added in a statement: “René played an important role in the success of our Socceroos and Olyroos’ campaigns over the past four years, and I’m delighted he has agreed to remain with the senior national team for a further World Cup cycle.
“We both firmly believe that the best is yet to come for this current and emerging group of players, with our sights set on claiming next year’s AFC Asian Cup and automatic qualification for the FIFA World Cup in 2026, where we want to create further history for Australian football.”
“New cycle” is tonight’s buzz phrase. Here’s captain Maty Ryan, very much on brand:
“We’re starting this new cycle, everybody’s excited, there are fresh faces, the energy has been high and we have been looking forward to tonight,” he says.
“[The potential debutants bring] plenty of energy, it has been nice to see the fresh faces and the fact there is a lot of excitement that they can bring something to the team and make us stronger. Fingers crossed they can make the most of the opportunities and get some nice experience being in camp for the games.”
Graham Arnold is on the TV, talking about that World Cup campaign, and what it meant to him and his team in Qatar.
“It was crazy to see the scenes and how much the country got behind the boys… surreal at times. Everyone overseas was amazed to see those scenes because they were thinking it is late in the afternoon in Australia, but when they checked the time schedule it was amazing. Look at this, look at what we were getting in Australia.”
Here’s some of that aforementioned youth – Aiden O’Neill of Melbourne City gets the nod to start and make his debut as Socceroos No 629. St Mirren midfielder Keanu Baccus, also 24 years of age, lines up alongside him in Australia’s midfield. Irankunda, Bos and Robertson are all on the bench, along with another potential debutant, the goalkeeper Joe Gauci.
Aaron Mooy is out injured of course, so too Riley McGree. Craig Goodwin and Awer Mabil come in.
And here’s how the visitors line up tonight:
Brighton’s Moises Caicedo is the obvious man to watch, although this team poses threats all through the attacking third.
Hello there. The Socceroos are back on home soil for the first time since their World Cup heroics in Qatar and Parramatta is suitably decked out in green and gold to welcome Graham Arnold’s team. Ecuador are tonight’s opponents in western Sydney – and in Melbourne next week for that matter.
The Australian football public have been asked to come out and show their appreciation for the team after they unexpectedly reached the last 16 of the tournament before bowing out to the eventual winners Argentina. We’ll see how many do – it being a rainy Friday night in Sydney and all.
Regardless, tonight represents the beginning of a new, possibly exciting, chapter for the Socceroos – the start of the next World Cup cycle. Arnold is still at the helm, the ink from his new four-year deal barely dry, as the tournament in Canada, USA and Mexico permeates into people’s thoughts.
Arnold has promised a blend of youth and experience in his team tonight, and excitement could come in the form of an appearance for the 17-year-old Nestory Irankunda, who has set the A-League Men alight this season off the bench. Hopefully we get to see the Adelaide United winger become the youngest Socceroo of all time tonight, while Alex Robertson and Jordan Bos are likely to take their international bow too.
Ecuador, ranked 41 in the world – 14 places below 27th-ranked Australia – will be no pushovers tonight however; their World Cup exploits nearly rivalled those of the Socceroos after they beat hosts Qatar before taking a point off the Netherlands – some would say they were unlucky not to take all three – and were desperately close to progressing from Group A, only to be denied a place in the last 16 by defeat to Senegal at the last.
Kick-off is 8pm local – around 30 minutes off. Team news is on the way. In the meantime, feel free to get in touch with an email or on Twitter @mike_hytner with any thoughts on tonight’s game. Let’s do this!