One thing that I feel is a must for every generation of Socceroos is a season ending tour of South America. This tour would provide priceless experience for the players and coaches of our various setups.
Obvious hurdles to this tour include player burn-out, packed schedules and European club coaches named David Moyes, but if these hurdles are overcome then the positives far outweigh the negatives.
With yesterday’s announcement by the Japan Football Association of their withdrawal from this year’s Copa America in Argentina, I feel there is no better time for Australia to start their quadrennial tour of South America.
The Copa America has a rich history of inviting non-South American teams to participate.
Mexico has participated in every tournament since 1993, Costa Rica and the USA have been three times and Honduras and Japan have been once each.
Honduras was particularly successful in 2001 by shocking Brazil in the quarter finals and beating Uruguay twice to ultimately finish third.
Uneducated people would be puzzled by Japan’s involvement in 1999 and again this year but Japan has a very deep political connection to South America. There are 1.5 million Japanese Brazilians and the former president of Peru was the Japan originated Alberto Fujimori.
While Japan’s withdrawal is disappointing, it is understandable considering the current situation in Japan.
Losing a team from the competition could have been easily worked around by having a three team group but the problem is that Japan was placed in the same group as Argentina. Potentially having the host nation only play twice is a problem that needs to be addressed.
This is where I think Australia could and should put their hand up at late notice and play in the Copa America.
Obviously being Australian I am biased and more obvious candidates would be Costa Rica, and again Honduras, but this seems like an opportunity to good to not fight for.
Most European seasons wind up in the middle of May giving our lads five long weeks of R’n’R and then start a week long preparation camp. With the first two of Japan’s (Australia) matches penciled in for San Salvador de Jujuy, travel is minimised and a base can be set up.
The third match would be against Argentina in Cordoba and would bring all the fair-weather fans out of the woodwork. No need to sell Australia versus Argentina in a meaningful match, in Australia that game sells itself.
This whole exercise would be fantastic for Australian football and would garner much needed respect from the South American football associations.
Perhaps swaying future votes in World Cup bidding, who knows?
This sounds great except for one thing. FIFA has a rule regarding footballers only playing one FIFA sanctioned tournament in a year.
Sending the U/23’s could be a possibility (Mexico are sending theirs plus five over agers) but I am against this as it would be like sending lambs to the slaughter and nothing tangible would be gained from this idea.
Perhaps Australia could send their full strength squad in the lead up weeks and play a series warm up friendlies against Argentina, Brazil and, of course, Uruguay: the first of the FFA’s quadrennial tour of South America.
One can only dream, I guess.