So the World Cup has begun, and for the Socceroos, kicks off tomorrow. I may come from a land where AFL footy and cricket are pre-eminent, but I’m bloody excited. This is a great event.
Australia has been written off, as they are just about every time they appear. On paper that’s probably fair. On the one hand the Socceroos have experienced a pretty tumultuous 18 months with a change in coach, and a huge turnover in players – out with the old, in with the new.
And there’s no doubting the pedigree of the teams we’ll be coming up against. We play the two finalists from the 2010 World Cup, as well as up and comers Chile tomorrow. No two ways we’re the minnows in this group.
I’m an Aussie though, and want to see Australia do well. Wishing doesn’t make it so, but at least I can point to history to give me some measure of confidence.
It’s rare than an Australian team takes the field in any sport and disappoints. One of our great strengths – possibly our greatest – is our competitiveness, aggression, and sheer fighting spirit. In those aspects we lord it just about everyone else in the world. It’s not the same as technical skills or top-level experience, but it means mostly that we’ll make it hard for whoever we play,. We’ll stay in the contest, will use our edge in strength and athleticism, and on the counter-attack are capable of surprise. We won’t lose it – you have to beat us.
Postecoglou is the right coach for us. Going back over 4 years ago I was usually critical of our coach of the time in the way he coached and prepared us. He was scared of the challenge ahead, and rather than taking it on – as we are taught from childhood to do – he sought to minimise the risk.
That’s not the Australian DNA. Pick a sport, any sport, and we’re up and at ’em. Forget rankings, our style has always been to take the game on. That’s our strength as people. We refuse on principle to be intimidated or overawed. Fuck that, lets show these characters what we can do.
What happened in 2010 was a betrayal of that spirit, and the result followed. Postecoglou knows that. He’s an Aussie. He knows it from long experience as does every player in the squad (reference how many times they speak publicly of the Australian will to win), and so too does the public. We’d rather lose fighting for every scrap than give it away thinking we’re not good enough.
I like Postecoglou’s style. He’s not a big talker, but he exudes authority and belief. He believes in attacking, ambitious football. It’s a kind of game that will make players better because they must elevate themselves to that level. It’s the kind of game that makes us as a playing outfit more dangerous and formidable. Teams taking on must be wary knowing that we can hurt them. We’ll be trying to win, not play it safe.
Then there’s Tim Cahill. I doubt there is a more iconic Aussie soccer player than Cahill. He embodies everything I wrote of about Aussie spirit. Listen to him talk, he’s an inspiration. Watch the way he goes about it, he’s a believer. With him up front – and given his record – anything is possible.
What do I think? I think we’re a chance against Chile. They’re vulnerable defensively. I think we’ll score against them. The trick is to stop them scoring. I think we’ll beat Holland. They can be fragile, they’re on the re-build, and we have a good record against them. The best we can hope for against Spain is a draw, and that will take some luck – but you never know.
We’re in the group of death, but we aint dead yet. Go Aussies. I’ll be watching.