Monday, June 19, 2006

Loud, Proud, and Drunk

I was working on a larger post describing the entirey of my weekend, when I just thought to myself: Screw It! There deserves to be a standalone post about Australia's effort in the World Cup.

Through a series of events to be described later, me and my Aussie buddy decided that we could be loud and proud in the lion's den. Yes, we came up with the idea of watching the largest test ever in Australian soccer history while throwing back mojitos and verbally jousting with Brazilians.

My mate Alistair and myself rocked up to the bar 15 minutes before the match, with a reasonable crowd of Americans in support. It's the funny thing about the two teams in question - we both wear green and gold. Thus I encountered a series of double and triple takes as I wandered about wearing my Australian International cricket jersey. Wandering about was of paramount importance, so that people could see the "AUSTRALIA" emblazoned on my lower back.

The game itself was enthralling. Australia were definitely not cowed, and had a lot of quality possession in the first half, though Brazil had the better quality opportunites, in my view. Amusingly our side of the bar had the ESPN feed (despite the fact that we couldn't hear the commentators), while the other side had the Spanish language feed. The ESPN feed appeared to have about a five second delay, so one side of the bar would go "OOOOOOOOOOH!", followed five seconds later by the other side going "AAAAAAAAAAAHHH!". One of the bartenders thought this was hilarious, until he took some executive action and switched the ESPN feed to the Spanish language feed.

At half-time I was in good spirits. Partially this was because of the quanity of mojitos consumed already, but mostly it was because of how the game was playing out. Brazil were not overly impressive, and Australia could claim they had won the honours at the break. Already our minds were moving inexorably to thoughts of a vital point, and maybe even to one of the greatest upsets in World Cup history.

By equal measures the natives were getting restless. Their South American heroes were being challenged by a motley bunch of battlers playing out of their minds. No one wearing the Brazilian colours would easily reconcile losing to any team in the first round... but Australia?!

As the second half got under way the tension in the bar was palpable. Unfortunately it wouldn't stay that way for long as Brazil strung together a piece of magic to put them up 1-0. The part of the bar that was refusing to cheer for Australia erupted, as the rest of us registered our dismay. But much like our bretheren on the pitch we refused to bow and go quietly from this encounter.

At a few minor heckles from those around me I proudly displayed my Australian colours as the Socceroos made some daring runs. A breakaway to the Brazilian goal was thwarted without a shot taken, but it was evidence that we had more scoring chances in us. Harry Kewell missed a chance which you would hope he would gobble up 9 times out of 10, and Viduka also had a great effort. Kewell then almost produced a goal which would have been replayed ten bazillion times back home, while potentially resulting in the Brazilian goalkeeper going into hiding.

But alas, it wasn't to be, and after a couple of Brazilian changes were made the back-breaking second goal came, courtesy of the unlikely monikered Fred. And that was how the game ended, 2-0, making the game look more one-sided than it actually was. Brazilians, both in the bar and across the world sprang into paroxyms of ecstasy... and I chose to feel proud.

Who amongst any of the football watching public would have guessed that Brazil would be played as tough as they were? If the Australians had been wearing another jersey, if for some reason it wasn't the Socceroos but Portugal or Spain out there, it would have been lauded as a hard-fought game amongst two Football Super Powers. But no, it was an upstart country from a nation in its second ever World Cup, fresh from scoring its only goals ever in the competition, fighting a giant to a standstill... and if things had broken slightly differently we might have achieved a draw or even (amazingly) victory.

After the immediate victory euphoria had worn off, a few Brazilians came over to congratulate us on the game, and expressed their belief that the Australians would be able to advance. We smiled, and agreed that we hoped that we would.

So as it stands Australia only has to draw against Croatia this Thursday to propel the nation of Australia into soccer history. Two weeks ago people would have laughed at you if you had presented this scenario, yet this is what now presents itself. I never mark the results in the books until the game is over, yet I look forward to Thursday with hope. If we play like we did against Brazil we have a real chance at progressing.

As a final note, if any of you thought that the Australians may not have competed as well with Brazil as well off the pitch as we did on, let me present exhibit A (courtesy of Deadspin) :

4 Comments:

  • You gotta love a post that ends with ends like that.

    My apologies for the lack of reminders for last week's Mookie. I was in Vegas and my assistant thought she could take the week off as well.

    Hope to see you there this Wednesday.

    By Blogger mookie99, at 10:07 AM  

  • I've been very impressed with the Aussies, but Kewell hasn't finished shit in three years. At least not in a Reds jersey. :)

    Will be rooting for them to go thru.

    By Blogger Joe Speaker, at 1:05 PM  

  • Goooo Socceroos!!!

    By Blogger Ingoal, at 3:25 PM  

  • They were DEFINATELY off side on that first goal..but whatever. I proudly wore my Socceroos T-shirt on the plan on the way back to Canada and will be screaming on my adopted land loud and proud (and at least this time at a civilized hour!).

    By Blogger Jules, at 3:22 AM  

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