The Socceroos are going to get ‘smashed’ in Russia

Stuart Thomas Columnist

By , Stuart Thomas is a Roar Expert

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    To all my Facebook friends, Twitter followers and acquaintances who have made contact post the FIFA World Cup draw predicting the shellacking that the Socceroos will receive in Russia, thank you.

    While much of the football community have reflected on Group C and have seen the difficulty and also the opportunity, a significant group of people felt the need to let me know that the Australians would be leaving the tournament after the first three matches, with little or no chance to progress.

    It is indeed a distinct possibility that the Socceroos will not move forward, and the short odds on offer reflect the challenge ahead of them. Only a fool could argue that Australia will advance comfortably. Nothing is ever comfortable at a World Cup.

    What concerned me the most was the motivation behind such comments. Those feeling the need to predict a highly probable outcome and ensure that I was aware of the limitations of the national team on the big stage engendered two ideas in my mind.

    First I wondered how such a negative mindset would be perceived in other areas of Australian life and sport. I thought Australia had a habit of lauding the underdog and beheading the champion, not the other way around.

    Surely this was a moment for all Australians to embrace the national team and ride the wave with them. Australian athletes across a range of sports have felt the groundswell of public support when faced with the seemingly impossible. The examples are numerous, yet some of the correspondence conveyed the antithesis of that support.

    (Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

    Secondly, it potentially identified a lack of understanding of the event itself, what it means both to win it and to participate.

    Its true meaning lies in its simplicity. The sphere, the limited equipment required and the universality of its language that speaks to the entire globe.

    However, the World Cup is about something so much more for Australia than just an opportunity for the naysayers to predict our doom.

    Our World Cup will always be about the next World Cup. At this stage only one nation is certain of a place in 2022 and that is Qatar itself. Everyone else will have to prove their worth when the qualifiers begin in 2019.

    Many of the Socceroos who eventually make the trip to Russia will form the nucleus of the squad that tackles those qualifiers. It is a golden opportunity to taste intense international competition, to expose our young tyros to the methods and strategies of the world powers and to continue to develop our national team.

    Texting a football writer in Sydney and telling him that the group is tough and the Socceroos are going to get ‘smashed’ misses the entire point.

    (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

    Using a barometer that sees anything less than advancement to the round of 16 as a failure, curiously met with mirth, reeks of ill-informed analysis of one of the world’s greatest sporting spectacles.

    Young Australian players will be spotted by international scouts and pencilled into notebooks for future reference. Moreover, our coaching staff will witness elite and expensive training camps that will inform our preparations for difficult away fixtures in the future.

    Whether the people on my contact list, whose knowledge of and passion for football is somewhat moderate, like to admit it or not, Australia’s presence at the World Cup triggers a knock-on effect for players, managers, auxiliary staff, administrators and fans.

    Let’s not even mention the money.

    As the face of football in Australia continues to change, the Socceroos playing on the world stage provides a greedy sporting public with what they crave: the national team with international exposure.

    The inspiration created by the green and gold provides a potential conduit between grassroots support and will lead to young players and fans engaging more consistently with the A-League competition.

    (Peter Macalpine – Flickr)

    This still stands as our greatest challenge, converting rusted on world football fans into followers of the local game, purchasing memberships and attending matches.

    Achieving this without showcasing our homegrown players at the pageant of football that is the World Cup becomes an almost impossible task, and while Australia may indeed suffer the fate laid out by some negative voices this week, the vacuum created by their absence is far worse.

    Attempting to convey the importance of Australia’s involvement to those waiting to wax lyrical about the poor state of Australian football when the Socceroos suffer an embarrassing exit is a fruitless exercise.

    Every successful qualifying nation will have a different set of parameters when it comes to expectations.

    For Iceland it will be another proud moment as they play David to the Goliaths of the major world footballing powers. England will carry the weight of frustration and expectation after 52 years in the wilderness. For nations like Brazil, Germany and Spain, anything less than a trophy will be deemed a failure.

    (Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images)

    Sixteen teams will go home early, some embarrassingly, some unluckily. Taking any joy in predicting our downfall is unfortunate and displays a lack of awareness of what it all means in the bigger picture of Australian football.

    Perhaps that is indeed the point: those inclined to comment in that way probably don’t have any vision of or interest in the bigger picture of Australian football.

    Those of us who do want to see our boys do us proud and aren’t blinded by unrealistic comparisons to Australia’s success in colonial sports where we have dominated for extended periods.

    It will be interesting to see the approach taken when the Matildas embark on their World Cup journey in France 2019. Something tells me there will be far fewer predictions of their downfall, purely based on their recent success.

    In essence many still see the Socceroos as losers who will get ‘smashed’ in Russia. If that result improves us for next time round, I’ll take it. And anyway, football in Australia has been getting smashed for years.

    Stuart Thomas
    Stuart Thomas

    Stuart Thomas is a sports writer and educator who made the jump from Roar Guru to Expert in 2017. An ex-trainee professional golfer, his sporting passions are broad with particular interests in football, AFL and rugby league. His love of sport is only matched by his passion for gardening and self-sustainability. Follow him on Twitter @stuartthomas72.