“El Socceroos, el Locos!” So blurred the Chilean and Spanish ministers for sport when they heard the news.
In Amsterdam, the headlines read “Van Hoppyroos, van Dumbkopfs”.
The coach of Holland explained to the gathered reporters, “They left out Kennedy, Rogic and Wilkshire? Now we have a chance to actually beat them”.
Then he popped the cork on another bottle of the finest Dutch bubbles.
It is great to see the passion of Australian fans but in world football terms, the Socceroos squad would not have caused a ripple. To the other teams in our group, and many here in Australia, tinkering with our squad is like rearranging deck-chairs on the Titanic.
Can coach Ange Postecoglou draw any lessons from the Titanic? Not the real thing, as that was a terrible human tragedy, but the 1997 movie, which was its own kind of tragedy.
Do I see Ange as the ill-fated Captain Smith? Sure, he went down with the ship but you’d have to admit, crashing and sinking a new ocean liner on its maiden voyage is poor form. If Holger Osieck was still at the helm a disaster would be unavoidable. So is Ange the next Jack Dawson? The next Rose?
No, the man I see Ange emulating is Wallace Hartley.
Wallace Hartley was the band leader of the Titanic’s orchestra that bravely played ‘Nearer my God to thee’ as the ship slipped under the waves. This is what Ange has intimated will happen – we will play football, even if faced with oblivion.
In his youthful 23-man squad he has only chosen six defenders. And this in a group where most pundits tip that Australia will be on the back foot the whole time.
One of those missing was Luke Wilkshire. Was Luke betrayed by a wardrobe malfunction? Some have suggested that lifting his shirt to reveal a tiny roll of fat was his undoing. Why didn’t he tuck his shirt in to his pants like Matt McKay?
In choosing his squad, Postecoglou has made a few statements.
One is that he will do things his way. He has made it plain that he calls the shots. Secondly, he has signalled to the other teams in our group that we won’t just park the bus. Ok, they may not worry over that much, but it is not what they would have expected.
To the players it shows that he is putting his own mark on the team. For us fans, it gives us a real buzz that something exciting is happening and these Socceroos will be worth following.
Ange will need to turn us into icebergs for the Dutch, Chilean and Spanish football liners. Yes we might be all fluffy and white on top, with polar bears and penguins frolicking about, but under the surface we will pack a mean kick.
I took some positives out of the Croatia match last weekend. Croatia are a quality outfit and only just shaded us. Our defence was not as bumbling as some of the recent performances and in fact it was the transition of defence to attack that seemed to be missing.
Which player can help provide that iceberg moment? For mine, it is Marc Bresciano, who looks to be our most composed player on the ball. He is one of our key players and if he can last a good part of the 90 minutes he can be the one to free up our speedy wingers.
It is a testament to the standard of our local competition that we are more familiar with current and recently departed A-League players than the international brigade. This is in complete contrast to our last two World Cup squads, and what better man to lead them than Postecoglou, the best coach the local competition has ever seen.
One of the wittier pieces of dialogue from Titanic was when one of the steerage passengers shouted “Bastardo” when his mate was shot by one of the ship’s crew. When Timmy Cahill heads home a last minute winner against Spain, I am sure we will hear this term muttered right across the Iberian peninsula.
So when that whistle sounds on Saturday morning in Cuiaba it’s time to stop griping about selections. These guys are the best we have got, coached by the best we have.
I’ll be out of my deckchair puffing out my chest just as the Socceroos will be. And if they do go down, I know they’ll go down swinging.
With Bresciano and Cahill on violin, Tommy Oar and Matthew Leckie as a brass section, and Matty Ryan and Mile Jedinak on the bass, the only thing to do is learn the words and singalong as they strike up ‘Nearer my Guus to thee’.