After last Thursday night’s disappointing loss against Japan, many people started to see what others have been trying to point out all along: the sport is being run to the ground and soon the days when the national team was proudly among the best in the world will be nothing but a distant memory.
The build-up to last Thursday’s game between the Australia and Japan men’s football teams was admittedly quite intense. And under such a premise, it was difficult not to! A do-or-die battle against a strong competitor whom the “Socceroos” haven’t beaten in such a long time (since 2009, to be specific) seemed like the ideal scenario for a football match.
People in Sydney clocked off work early to find a seat at their nearby pubs and bars, dressed in green-and-gold, while others (over 40,000 of them) made the long trek to the Olympic Grounds at Homebush — with ticket prices soaring well over $50! — for what promised to be a battle between two gladiators.
Yet, when the referee blew his whistle, it proved to be more of a “David vs. Goliath” type of competition. With the Australian players constantly on the backfoot, barely holding on to the ball and scrambling to find solutions for the onslaught of chances created by their Japanese counterparts.
Only in the first half, the ball had bounced off the woodwork twice(!), leaving the home side feeling extremely fortunate to go to the dressing rooms with the scores goalless.
But football can be a cruel game and just as the Aussies were beginning to rely on their luck a little too much, with their coach Graham Arnold bringing in more strikers hoping to find something up front, the visiting team made the most of their possession and creativeness and in the last couple of minutes of the game, they scored two goals with the same player (Brighton’s Kaoru Mitoma) and sealed their spot in the upcoming World Cup.
The real highlights came after the final whistle!