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 lile 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 aer 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 aernoon, our two most dangerous propositions didn’t get on the park. Aaron Mooy was cooked aer 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?