Socceroos vs Japan in Brisbane is a masterstroke
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Holger Osieck, sacked on the back of Australia's second 6-0 loss. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
Football Federation Australia is often criticised, but one thing it has got right is the venue for next month’s World Cup qualifier against Japan.
The choice of Suncorp Stadium is a tactical masterstroke against a team used to playing in front of vociferous atmospheres.
With no disrespect to our other Asian neighbours or friendly opponents Denmark and Scotland, the clash with Alberto Zaccheroni’s high-profile Samurai Blue is the highlight fixture of the year and deserves to be played in front of a jam-packed stadium.
And with more than 50,000 fans sitting right on top of the action, I can think of no more intimidating a venue than Brisbane’s showpiece rectangular ground.
That’s an important factor against a Japanese side possessing an abundance of natural ability but one which rarely plays its best football away from home.
And with Japan facing Oman and Jordan in quick succession at their equally intimidating Saitama Stadium before coming to Brisbane, the Socceroos are well advised to have a fiercely parochial home crowd on their side.
I certainly hope tickets are flying out the door for this one because football fans in Australia will not experience a better international atmosphere this year.
I fondly remember watching international teams like England in qualifying action on the old World Soccer show and dreamed of the day Australia would play meaningful fixtures at our very own version of Wembley.
Well, we may not have a dedicated national stadium – indeed, we don’t need one – but we certainly play meaningful fixtures now that we’re a member of the Asian Football Confederation.
And to imagine the likes of Yuto Nagatomo, Keisuke Honda and one of the world’s best players in the impish Shinji Kagawa coming to Brisbane is a world away from watching the Socceroos smash hapless Oceania opponents in front of empty stands.
I’m not privy to the confidential commercial agreements that dictate which games are played where, but I can imagine the temptation was great to play such a marquee fixture in Melbourne or Sydney.
But I was at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in June 2009 – not to mention Yokohama just a few months earlier – and I can honestly say I think the atmosphere in Brisbane will trump both grounds by virtue of it being a more intimate venue.
There’s also something to be said for Queensland’s sports fans and their ability to turn up the intimidation factor when required.
Sitting high in the stands at the A-League grand final last month I was taken aback at just how ferociously the Roar fans got behind their team.
Factor that in with the Socceroos’ army of visiting interstate fans and the roof could be lifted off on June 12 – to say nothing of Japan’s loud and sizeably large travelling support.
About the only other thing worth mentioning in terms of the choice of venue is the name, with the ground reverting to its corporation-free moniker of ‘Brisbane Stadium’ for international fixtures.
I’ve heard a few muffled criticisms of that attending AFC Champions League games this year but I simply see it as representative of our football taking place on the world stage.
So what if the ground is called Brisbane Stadium or the signage advertises Pocari Sweat or Nikon or Qatar Petroleum?
It’s merely symbolic of the fact we’re playing in an international arena in front of a global television audience of millions.
Clearly the game itself will be won and lost on the pitch.
But if Socceroos coach Holger Osieck wants a raucous atmosphere against a team rapidly becoming one of Australia’s fiercest rivals, he’ll certainly get that in Brisbane.
Football fans are in for a real treat when the national team runs out for a showpiece showdown next month.
Like any self-respecting football fan, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Match details: Socceroos vs Japan
Tuesday 12 June, 2012, Suncorp Stadium (referred to by FFA due to AFC regulations as Brisbane Stadium)
Kick-Off: 8.00pm (AEST)
Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he has settled in Brisbane and has been a Roar columnist since December 2008. Follow Mike on twitter @Mike_Tuckerman