World Cup plans? Not with­out drama


Never easy, is it? On, off, around the field of Aus­tralian foot­ball, it’s never ... bloody ... easy. The sport has scratched, scrounged, re-in­vented, dis­in­fected to get it­self right, and still it goes on.

Let us not bore of the de­tails of gov­er­nance and the po­lit­i­cal mumbo-jumbo that is hap­pen­ing be­hind the scenes as stake­hold­ers try to fig­ure out whose stake is big­gest, hope­fully with­out burn­ing each other on them.

It is no more clear on the pitch, where the Soc­ceroos’ World Cup as­pi­ra­tions are about to hit fever pitch. Again!

But this is where the true beauty of foot­ball lies. Not a board­room, or power trip, but in 90 min­utes that mean plenty to a whole swarm of peo­ple: 2005, Uruguay; 2013, Iraq. Yikes, the heart skips a beat just re­call­ing them. And in 2017, Thai­land?

Funny, 2009 was a bore draw in Qatar at 3am Aussie time that got us into a World Cup with li•le fuss at all. Do we take that, or wink, smirk and go for the drama?

Thanks to slips away to Iraq and Thai­land plus the emer­gence of Saudi Ara­bia as a re­gional pow­er­house once more, we’ve got no choice this time around. Get those deep breath­ing tech­niques ready, they’ll be re­quired very soon.

Is there great cause for con­cern? Aus­tralia sits third, equal with Saudi, one point be­hind Ja­pan. Those two play each other on the last match day.

Yes, there is cause, be­cause a™er adding the two, car­ry­ing the one, mul­ti­ply­ing the seven and work­ing out the square root of stuff-all, any­thing is a math­e­mat­i­cal pos­si­bil­ity. If we wob­ble, we’re off on a four-match white-knuckle ride around the world to make it, via the play­off sys­tem. Ei­ther Uzbek­istan or South Korea over two legs, and if that works out fine, likely Panama or U-S-A, U-S-A! Imag­ine that, Trump and Turn­bull.

Or for once, the Aus­tralian foot­ball fan can look at it op­ti­misti­cally; win in Ja­pan on Au­gust 31, beat the tricky Thais in Mel­bourne six days later and we’re in, we’re off to Rus­sia. No dra­mas.

Is there good rea­son for any feel­ing of op­ti­mism, for gen­er­a­tions said to be a for­eign, un­known emo­tion to the hum­ble Aus­tralian foot­ball fan? Well, the Soc­ceroos' last per­for­mance one was prob­a­bly the best un­der Ange Postecoglou. A 1-1 draw in the Moscow sun­shine against Chile at the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup. To a man, they stood up to more fan­cied op­po­nents. Two in par­tic­u­lar – James Troisi and Mark Mil­li­gan – out­played their di­rect op­po­nents, and given Mil­li­gan’s was su­per­star Alexis Sanchez, it shouldn’t be un­der­es­ti­mated.

Plus, that a™er­noon, our two most danger­ous propo­si­tions didn’t get on the park. Aaron Mooy was cooked a™er push­ing Hud­der­s­field into the Premier League, and Tom Rogic was about to come on be­fore the ex­cel­lent Trent Sains­bury felt his hammy go twang.

And best of all: ev­ery­one in­volved with the team was gen­uinely ticked off they didn’t get more from the game. Honourable draw? Get stuffed, should have won.

If these two games came straight off the back of that ... all wish­ful think­ing. They haven’t, and the space be­tween games has cre­ated time to think. Re­cently caught up with one Soc­ceroo in Europe, who de­spite mov­ing from one league to an­other in the off­sea­son, and tak­ing in all that goes with try­ing to prove your­self all over again, can’t stop think­ing about these two Soc­ceroos' dates on the hori­zon. And the rest of them are all think­ing the same way, he as­sured me.

Which is a good thing, hope­fully re­sult­ing in a great thing – Aus­tralia at an­other World Cup and the chance to re­ally prove some­thing on the big stage.

If we wob­ble, we’ re off on a four-match whiteknuckle ride around the world­tomakeit.

Mark Mil­li­gan met the chal­lenge of Alexis Sanchez and Chile. Ja­pan next?

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