The Socceroos were brilliant but soccer is pure evil
Soccer is evil. There is no other way to describe this fickle and cruel diversion.
How’s this - having been pantsed by the Germans in our opening game Australians were yesterday forced to barrack for them in the complex hope that, somehow, the goal difference would fall our way and we’d progress to the second stage.
You know you’re up the creek when you’re a mathematical chance of making the finals. Think Wests Tigers and Souths in most seasons in the NRL, think Richmond pretty much every year in the dying weeks of the AFL season. The Socceroos were a mathematical chance going into last night’s game against Serbia in Nelspruit. To their credit they nearly pulled it off.
Needing to make up a four goal deficit from our opening game against Germany, for 10 incredibly exciting minutes we (with some help from our German chums) were one goal away from doing just that.
After Tim Cahill’s header in the 69th minute and Brett Holman’s just four minutes later, his second of the tournament, this time a brilliant strike from outside the box, the Aussies were two-nil up. And in the Germany-Ghana game, Das Mannschaft had hit the front. One more goal, by us or by Germany, and we were home.
Just one goal.
It was not to be.
Mark Schwarzer had been the undisputed hero of a first half where the Serbs dominated much of the play, with the ball in their possession for 57 per cent of the time. Serbian striker Milos Krasic was leading David Carney on a merry dance, with two shots on goal, and a goal disallowed through offside. In that first half, all that stood between Australia and near-instant heartbreak was Mark Schwarzer.
But it was Schwarzer’s uncharacteristic fumble late in the second half which set up Marko Pantelic to peg one back.
You normally know a goal is scored from the noise. You knew that this goal had been scored from the silence.
The score read Australia 2, Serbia 1. Calculator time.
We therefore needed another two goals in about seven minutes and for Ghana not to score against Germany. Or we needed Germany, which by this stage was coasting into the second round, still one up against Ghana, to throw everyone forward and start playing like a bunch of goal-hungry Latino showponies. Fat chance.
The crowd of 37,836 fans here at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit was running about 10 Socceroos for every Serb. It was massively skewed in Australia’s favour. But as the game wound down, so too did the crowd.
The nice thing though was that people didn’t seem disappointed. They seemed proud.
The Socceroos had expunged the horrors of that opening game. Tim Cahill, robbed of his chance to shine in the second match after the ludicrous red card in the first, had restated his greatness with the opening goal of the game.
Pim Verbeek had also learnt his lesson from game one - that the best form of defence is attack - a bittersweet revelation as it obviously came too late to let us progress in this World Cup. Who knows what might have been.
But at the end of it all, with our campaign now over, Australia can look back and say that, aside from that deluge of German goals in the opening game, we did as well as we did in terms of results as in the last World Cup in Germany - one loss, one incredibly gutsy draw against Ghana with just 10 men, and one brilliant win against the Serbs.
Go the Socceroos.
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