Coffee through an intravenous drip, calls for the national coach to be sacked, and watching multiple opportunities amount to virtually nothing; finally it feels like a proper World Cup qualifying campaign.
It was a strange and eerie feeling last night leaving the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium last night. Thai fans were celebrating their fallen heroes and deservedly so, you could circumnavigate the globe many times and fail to find a braver effort than last night. With the assistance of the woodwork and some gutsy defending the Thai national team leave Melbourne with their heads firmly held high. Almost stealing a point away to the reigning Asian Champions would’ve been beyond their wildest expectations and will most likely get lost here in Australia as we reach for multiple panic buttons.
Two goals were all we could muster on a cold, wet and miserable night in Melbourne, although we had a ridiculous amount of opportunities that we squandered throughout the night. The misfiring Tomi (and Tom) guns will need to be serviced before we continue our ‘Road to Russia’ campaign. Apart from scoring the opening goal the only contribution Juric made for ninety minutes was placing the ball down on the spot for the Thailand keeper.
Our boys played their hearts out, and Ange went full DEFCON One with his attacking options, with his final decision somewhat questionable when the equaliser hit the back of the net. Whilst you cannot fault the effort of the players it was all to no affect as we cleared the sleep from our eyes and saw Saudi Arabia defeat an already qualified Japanese team to qualify automatically for Russia.
Full credit to the crowd who rode every missed opportunity together, watched intensely for the ninety-four minutes with their heart firmly in their mouth and didn’t have a single moment spare to throw a paper airplane. The electric atmosphere was how Socceroos home games should be, funny what happens when you play at a purpose built stadium.
By now we’ve all had our morning coffee and a justifiable rant regarding the performance of our national team. We didn’t the players didn’t let themselves down by not achieving the desired result, they once again grew in the eyes of a nation and we finally saw the passion and effort required to make a World Cup. Asian qualification isn’t as automatic as many seem to think, and it’s fair to say through the mismanagement of multiple departments of our game in the last few years we have lost ground to some opposing nations. World Cup qualification should never be taken lightly, maybe this campaign will finally make many people realise this.
Ange Postecoglu might come across as arrogant who chooses to dabble with the tactics mid campaign but he is the man we must trust and put our blind faith in. Ange has got the job done on multiple occasions and as a nation we must start to back him in.
In regards to the FFA, they never in their wildest dreams expected this day to happen. As Champions of Asia is gave us a false pretence that the ‘Road to Russia’ was more a waltz than the marathon we are now competing in. We must step back and learn from this campaign, play our opposition in conditions that will make them uncomfortable, play in stadiums where you maximise the intimidation factor, not just fatten your wallet. If football in Australia took the qualification process seriously they would never schedule the first round of the domestic competition smack bang in the middle of any potential playoff period. The sheer arrogance to even consider this has come back to haunt them and now the stagnant league won’t receive the much needed publicity it desires. Maybe you will finally listen to those pushing for the FFA to recognise designated FIFA international periods.
Whilst playing Syria isn’t ideal it’s the wakeup call the game needs at a national level. It’s a big enough scare for those running the game to really think about where they are taking the game without missing qualification just yet.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we must learn to put our grievances aside for the next few weeks and firmly focus on our next play-off campaign. 24 Million Fans, One Heartbeat has never rung truer.