World Cup: Socceroos determined to bring home a win
The Australian team wraps up its last training session in Vitoria ahead of their final World Cup match against Spain in Curitiba, focused on bringing home a positive result.PT2M43S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-3altm 620 349 June 22, 2014
In Brazil, in this extraordinary and confounding World Cup, the feeling that a new level is being reached is overwhelming. Both in terms of the Australian journey at this tournament and as a whole.
Like all fans, I remember like yesterday my first tournament, Espana '82. The beauty of Tele Santana's Brazil, the threat of Paolo Rossi, images that became a feeling over time, a wondrous time that evolved into a great appreciation of the football I saw then. A romantic time for the game.
What, then, is being sown in the minds and hearts of millions of Australians during this tournament, in which the relentless pace of upset and mesmeric performance has been maintained from the second day?
Beaten but unbowed: Tim Cahill and Ange Postecoglou after the Socceroos' 3-2 defeat to the Netherlands. Photo: AFP
Each World Cup represents another generation of Australians born into the wonderful world of football and, with matches played at amazing speed and with exceptional commitment and passion, this next generation is blessed to begin their personal journey at the top.
Something drastic will have to occur in the knockout stages for this to not be considered the greatest World Cup of all time, fulfilling our greatest hopes in and for the land of jogo bonito.
A new generation emerged for the Australians and a new feeling of optimism and support for a campaign that had at its heart two very clear objectives – to play in a way representative of the nation and to build for the future.
Both were achieved with room to spare. Sixteen of 20 outfield players used thus far, in the youngest squad sent to a World Cup by Australia.
The Chile match was a great effort, but we aimed for more. We wanted to put an emphasis on playing rather than simply competing, on starting well rather than always fighting from behind. The Netherlands match was the highlight and the moment the players, and coaches, grew up at this level.
All of Australia took the team to heart because they took on the best at their own game and outplayed the highly fancied Dutch. At this stage, and with this group, that is a fantastic achievement irrespective of the outcome.
The fact that the team actually led, and narrowly lost when at least a point was more than deserved, adds to the positivity, but the over-riding imperatives were to begin to play the football of our future on the biggest stage and to learn.
Setting aside results short term for the bigger picture is a difficult prospect in football, because the emotion impedes rational thought and strategy. So well done to FFA for finally setting and sticking with a strategy for the medium term.
After South Africa, I wrote that the campaign was a total failure of belief, to not inconsiderable, nor unexpected, consternation.
Perhaps I could assume more know now what I was talking about, since the Netherlands game was the perfect opportunity to take a weak and timid approach a la Germany. Surely we can't go there and actually play, can we? What a ridiculous idea!
We're only Australia, after all. Plenty said we were too old in 2010, this the ideal opportunity, then, as surely too young.
I said we could take a loss, even by four, and there has been plenty in this World Cup but only in a certain way – by having a crack, being aggressive and brave, and that nothing else should be, or should have been allowed.
I criticised the federation for having no strategy, no philosophy and no leadership to ensure the national coach has to play a certain way that reflects the shirt and the nation.
Four years later and the message got through. Ange Postecoglou was appointed to play in a proactive manner and, huge credit to Postecoglou, he did so in the biggest moment of his career to date. Bravo.
This is what we have been talking about, an approach that gives scope to great victories, brilliant feats, and Timmy Cahill's goal was as brilliant as seeing the Aussies out-pass the Dutch. A beautiful sight if ever there was one.
Couldn't care less about the score, not one iota. Why? Because this approach best suits our mentality and, eventually, we will beat them regularly. Today's defeat is tomorrow's title.
This campaign is also a massive boost to the A-League players and coaches.
I was very concerned that our best local coaches were not quite ready and needed another cycle since the major tactical progress has been in the last four years. Were they not ready, severe damage could have been done with a poor showing in a tough group.
I certainly would have gone abroad one more time, searching for the ideal football in the quickest possible time frame but the plan formulated by Postecoglou, Ante Milicic and Aurelio Vidmar for the Dutch game was simply superb.
Thorough, sophisticated, insightful and aggressive. They presented Holland with a problem to solve and it took to half-time before they found their way.
A first-rate manifestation of all the recent progress within the technical sphere of Australian football.
Congratulations to Postecoglou, his fellow technicians and FFA.
The most important lesson from 2010 has been learnt.