Socceroos striker Mitch Duke in Asian Cup action v South Korea.
Mitch Duke said he had received social media messages from people wishing he would die. Image by AP PHOTO
  • soccer

Socceroos ace Duke calls out Asian Cup death threats

George Clarke March 19, 2024

Mitchell Duke is refusing to put an end date on his national team career as he prepares to play for Australia for the first time since he was the victim of vile death threats.

Duke is likely to lead the line for the Socceroos in their World Cup qualifier against Lebanon at CommBank Stadium on Thursday, where a win would all-but-guarantee passage to the final round of qualification. 

It will mark his first appearance in green and gold since Australia’s heartbreaking 2-1 quarter-final loss against South Korea at the Asian Cup. 

Defender Lewis Miller came in for criticism after that match for the rash challenges that led to Korea snatching two late goals and pulling away with the win.

Socceroos defender Lewis Miller.
 Lewis Miller (pic) will grow stronger as a result of his Asian Cup hammering, Mitchell Duke says. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS 

The normally reliable Duke was disappointed with himself after failing to finish chances to put Australia 2-0 up – the first a volleyed effort, the second a glancing header. 

A little more than a year earlier, Duke had been the toast of Australia after his winning header against Tunisia at the World Cup.

But following the Socceroos’ quarter-final exit he was on the receiving end of a much more unpleasant form of feedback. 

“Call me crap, everyone gets that, but you should never wish people dead,” Duke told AAP of the social media furore that followed the South Korea clash. 

“If you don’t like me as a player, say I’m s**t or your grandma could have scored that … say what you like. 

“But if you wish death upon somebody, that’s when it gets a little bit ugly.

“I was seeing comments from people saying they want to see me beheaded, and that they’d come to see that show. 

“My mum’s quite active on social media and gets upset by that kind of stuff but I laugh at it. 

“It reflects on the people who write that rather than yourself.”

Duke said he felt for Miller, who was playing at his first major tournament. The defender will miss this month’s qualifiers with injury.

“It was water off a duck’s back for me, I know to escape that,” Duke said. 

“I know Lewis was fine, he’s strong mentally, but it would obviously affect him.

“He’s learned the hard way but it can be a massive learning experience for him because it’ll improve him as a footballer.” 

Craig Goodwin.
 Craig Goodwin is Australia’s only fitness concern ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Lebanon. Image by Scott Barbour/AAP PHOTOS 

Duke has been one of Graham Arnold’s most-dependable servants in recent years, but at 33 the Japan-based forward wants to savour every last moment with the Socceroos.

The former Western Sydney Wanderers and Central Coast Mariners striker has no idea when his time as Australia’s main man will come to an end, but said he would always be on hand to support Arnold’s squad. 

“I’ve had the discussions with Arnie and I said I’m not looking too far into the future,” Duke said. 

“I’m happy to still be one of the experienced boys, even if that means pulling back my role, and not being a starting player.

“I want to set the standard in training and help the young boys. 

“We’ve got some young strikers coming through like Kusini Yengi, and Adam Taggart is hitting his straps. 

“There’s more competition now, which is great to see.” 

The Socceroos trained fully for the first time on Tuesday, with the fitness of winger Craig Goodwin – who is struggling with a virus – the only concern for Arnold’s men.