Australia enters the Asia Cup with hefty expectations, but is this realistic? I cannot remember Australian football being at lower ebb in my time of supporting the national team, but I’m sure there were some dark days of the past. Many Australians expect the Socceroos to simply turn up and win the 2015 Asian Cup, but sadly it won’t be that simple.
Gone are the glory days of Oceania where we won everything in our path and scored for fun. The much publicized 13 goals from Archie Thompson won’t happen in the stronger confederation of Asia, and was an anomaly in the Oceania version. Sure New Zealand gave a great challenge on their day, but without disrespected the region, Australia were far too good for the area, resulting in an ‘Oceania Mentality’ for some fans; meaning Australia should dispatch any nation you haven’t heard a great deal about on the football pitch. We can say that about American Samoa, Vanuatu and the micro nations of the Pacific but Asian football is much stronger.
I’m a little disappointed there wasn’t a greater push for New Zealand to play in the tournament either as a guest, or as an Asian nation. Whilst it latter option would’ve crippled the Oceania confederation, New Zealand need to think about the future. The third place finish of semi pro team Auckland City was a result of the nation staying in Oceania, but given our close sporting relationship with our friends across the Tasman this tournament represented the perfect time for them to join the Asian Federation, or at least dip their toe in the water and play as a guest. Many will argue that New Zealand football is better to stay in Oceania, but I disagree.
Whilst no nation enters the tournament in the FIFA top 50 nations of the world, the confederation is an improving one, and money and player development are increasing every year. The AFC may never be as strong South America or Europe, but for the Socceroos the challenges are many and are increasing all the time. Fans looking from afar will remember the glory days of the past with players like Bosnich, Zelic, Kewell, and Viduka with the individual brilliance to destroy much better teams on any given day. Those days are beyond us now, the Socceroos are without a genuine star at this tournament and must come together as a squad of players, rather than rely on any particular individual. One man won’t win this Asian Cup, but 23 might.
Fans will play a far bigger role in this tournament than any previous played before. Whilst the players will need to step up this month, so too will the fans. Home ground advantage is an incredible advantage, but also a huge burden if not used correctly. Everyone attending Socceroos games during the cup must be loud, passionate and immensely proud of our Socceroos. Support must be given for every minute played whilst Mile Jedinak leads his men on the pitch. In the past Socceroos matches in Australia have lacked the atmosphere of those previous. I recall attending games against Iran, France and Manchester United with an incredible energy and passion for the yellow shirt, something that has gone missing of late. Maybe it’s a combination of declining ranking and the Socceroos games on home soil almost becoming redundant in recent times.
We have suffered disappointing results against nations most would expect better results against. The bare facts of the matter are that the Socceroos start the tournament as the 10th ranked nation, and the third in their group. Whilst we don’t hang our hats on rankings it does show how the mighty have fallen. The Socceroos represent the hopes of Australia, and this tournament is the most important. Ange Postecoglu and his men do have a realistic chance of winning the Cup, but everything must go right for the team. Anything less than a semi final berth with be judged a failure, and making the final will be a successful operation and create a buzz for football the FFA can build off in years to come.
Over the past decade we have made some inroads in the Australian sporting community through world cup attendance and the improving A-League, but over the next month the credibility of football is on the line and everything will be judged on the performance of the Socceroos.Google+