Australia, Ivory Coast, Chile take 2015 footballing spoils

Marty Gleason Roar Pro

By Marty Gleason, Marty Gleason is a Roar Pro

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    2015 has been a busy year in international football. There have been four major continental championships this year in Asia, Africa and both Americas, all of which have featured semi-surprise winners.

    Australia’s tournament came when we hosted the 2015 Asian Cup here in January. When a team wins the tournament it hosts, there is a feeling of completeness. We hosted it, we won it, it was therefore our tournament in every sense.

    It was an odd month which, in my case in Melbourne, featured traipsing to the rather lovely, artificially starlit AAMI Stadium with its distinctive football balls shape. It was a summertime with long twilight, the air was fresh, the tickets were cheap as chips and the Melbourne crowds got to know unknown quantities such as North Korea, an emotional tournament for Palestine and the bellowing cry of “OOz-bek-i-STON!” (Uzbekistan).

    I wonder what a North Korea player thought, jogging past and looking at my Dad and I sipping beers in the front rows?

    Australia played its part as hosts, contributing minimum 10,000-person crowds to every match and providing a relaxing atmosphere. There is debate about how well Australia integrates into the Asian Football Confederation, but we staged a fine tournament.

    There is no doubt that Australia reaching the final captured the country’s attention, evidenced by Sydney’s tense, packed yellow stadium in the final. Beforehand we frankly had no idea how the young team would go.

    When the boys conceded a soft goal in the first ten minutes to one of the weakest teams in the field (Kuwait), it was a shock but hadn’t seemed impossible. But Massimo Luongo became a new star and coach Ange Postecoglou got it right with a young team whose priority was the clever short-passing game which has taken over the world elsewhere.

    Asia is in something of a rut, with poor appearances at the 2014 World Cup and flagship team Japan eliminated in an odd travesty of a quarter-final here in Australia. The depth in Asian football is not so great.

    But the final between Australia and South Korea was the best international final for quite a few years. We arguably outdid ourselves in beating the Koreans and can cherish the result of this tournament. It will never stop being ours.

    At the same time, the 2015 African Nations Cup was being played. Egypt’s domination of this tournament last decade gave the African continental championship a bit of gravitas it no longer possesses.

    For ten years neighbours Ivory Coast and Ghana have repeatedly almost won the African title but each time they have lost traumatically. It made sense that the two eventually end up in the final against each other.

    Both this match and the South American final boasted the perfect match-up but neither game delivered. First Ivory Coast and Ghana, and then Chile and Argentina, would play featureless goalless draws.

    Ivory Coast incredibly then won the penalty shootout after missing their first two kicks. The game of chicken went on for more than double the length of a normal penalty shootout.

    All 22 on-field players took a kick before Ivory Coast’s keeper Boubacar Barry decided the final against his Ghana counterpart, saving his kick and then beating him with his own penalty.

    Ivory Coast’s decade-long anguish, one of the sub-stories of international football, was finally over, as Yaya Toure lifted the trophy.

    But it was a poor tournament that only featured three quality teams. It was hoped that Algeria would add to their great World Cup with the African title. Their 3-1 loss to Ivory Coast in the quarter-final virtually decided a lopsided, somewhat forgettable tournament.

    June featured the 2015 Copa America in Chile, the South American championship. South American teams had featured strongly at the World Cup and it was intriguing to see if Chile and Colombia could continue their dazzling progress, and if Argentina and Brazil could get over last year’s trauma in each losing to Germany.

    This became Chile’s tournament in the same way the Asian Cup belonged to Australia. Chile won their first ever continental title (after 100 years) in front of a bevy of Chilean flags and national feeling. Like Australia but more so, Chile had revolutionised their team to play in a particular, skilful way, and for their efforts deserved a hometown South American championship.

    But it was difficult and came with a cache of sour incidents. Arturo Vidal, the on-field leader of the team, probably should not have even been there. He went out drinking at a casino mid-tournament, drunkenly crashed his Ferrari and injured his wife. If Chile weren’t so desperate to win this once-in-a-lifetime tournament he would certainly and deservedly have been kicked out of the squad.

    Nonetheless, for barren Chile it was win at any cost, so he stayed. Chile’s title was mostly then won by the newer players, forward Eduardo Vargas and midfielder Charles Aranguiz.

    Argentina produced the international display of the decade in beating Paraguay 6-1 sumptuously in the semi-final. Yet in the final they could not flex muscle against Chile, who matched up to them relatively well and whose crowd got them over the line. Lionel Messi was devastated to lose, only a few days after his Paraguay masterpiece.

    The international carnival was wrapped up by Mexico winning the North American championship this week. But they did in comically controversial circumstances, gifted three penalties to win the quarter and semi-finals, two in the last minute of each match.

    In those circumstances, while steering clear of conspiracy theories, their title win cannot be seen in a positive light.

    Australia and Chile, who played an entertaining 3-1 Chile win at the 2014 World Cup while Australia were just starting their rejuvenation, may now have a rematch at the 2017 Confederations Cup. On the international agenda now is Euro 2016 in a year, and then the distant 2018 World Cup in Russia.

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    The Crowd Says (14)

    • Roar Guru

      July 31st 2015 @ 9:05am
      Nicholas Rupolo said | July 31st 2015 @ 9:05am | ! Report

      It was a great and exciting year for Australian football, Socceroos first ever international cup trophy and celebrating 10 years of the Hyundai a-league. Can only imagine where it can go from here, with teams playing big clubs, and some of our best and brightest young Aussie footballers making the jump to Europe like Awer Mabil and hopefully Tomi Juric.

      Our main priority is WCQaulifiers and we’ll get through that, but i think Postecoglou may want to take a look ahead just before the world cup at 2017 in the Confederations cup, i think we could pull a strong performance there.

      • Roar Guru

        July 31st 2015 @ 9:46am
        Cameron Kellett said | July 31st 2015 @ 9:46am | ! Report

        Personally, I don’t have concerns for the future of the Socceroos currently, it’s the A-League I have my concerns about.

        You have a governing body so money hungry that they won’t relinquish any power to the clubs.

        There is no CBA between the PFA and FFA and nothing has budged.

        The back peddling has now begun as they may allow to foreign marquees just to compete with the MLS but yet what clubs are even bothering to lure such players when there is no incentive.

        I don’t see what benefit these big club clashes have had whatsoever. Brisbane Roar are in financial ruin and confidence is shattered in the Brisbane public.

        Newcastle are yet to be offloaded.

        Mariners are inclined to have financial issues as history shows.

        Adelaide United don’t appear to have benefited with their coach jetting off for personal reasons and their memberships are yet to take off due to the clash with Liverpool.

        Have the Phoenix future been secured yet?

        No talk of expansion and SBS too-ing and fro-ing as to the TV rights. 9, 7, 10 worried about a quick cash grab.

        You’ll see in 14 days time a stark comparison for most A-League clubs just how much membership sales have fallen which indicates a decline in following or confidence in the competition.

        I hold genuine concerns for the next 10 years of the A-League at this current rate.

        • July 31st 2015 @ 10:13am
          Waz said | July 31st 2015 @ 10:13am | ! Report

          While it’s okay to hold concerns it’s important not to blow them out of proportion in the same way when things are going well we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves.

          We have problematic clubs – not least in Roar, Mariners and Jets where all three have issues with owners/management engaging with fans and the football community and yet Roar (12,000) and Jets (10,000) managed to sell a lot of memberships last year – imagine what those two clubs could do if they better engage with their communities?

          Season 10 should have been something of a celebration and yet it was a strange season, and as you point out left us with many a problem to deal with and a change of leadership at the top due just as these challenges arise.

          The lesson is simple – ten years in we’ve only just scratched the surface so before we get complacent let’s remember where we were ten years ago, look at where we are today, and agree that we need to achieve as much in the next ten years as we did in the last ten; and there is no “silver bullet”, no one thing we need to do and everything will be alright, just hard graft, compromise and tough decisions but we can and will get there. Season 11 can’t come soon enough for me – and looking at the membership numbers for Wanderers, Victory, Sydney and City those clubs will be fine – the others just have to work harder to get things right, this is Australia – it’s meant to be tuff !!

          • July 31st 2015 @ 10:37am
            woodo said | July 31st 2015 @ 10:37am | ! Report

            My sentiments exactly.

        • July 31st 2015 @ 10:34am
          AZ_RBB said | July 31st 2015 @ 10:34am | ! Report

          I get your concerns and it’s hard to really argue against any of them. Although I would say that CCM have been resilient with their troubles and seem to kick on each time. Adelaide will be fine as well, they had a massive season last year and they seem to have a good back up for Gumby. Don’t think Phoenix have too much to be worried about. It’ll be confirmed sooner rather than later.

          No doubt Brisbane and Newcastle are in trouble. The Brisbane situation really baffles me.

          But you seem to have focused on the negatives.

          Last season saw a massive increase in membership and before February everything was looking up in terms of attendance and ratings. Football fatigue may have played a part in the drop in the final 2 months. But at the moment WSW and MVFC are looking at posting massive membership numbers. SFC and Adelaide following their strong seasons might get good numbers. City have already passed 5k but may need a big marquee to cross 10k.

          Overall media focus is significantly higher than in the past as well.

          So it’s not all doom and gloom. But yes there are a few things that are less than ideal. Maybe a few too many things.

          • Roar Guru

            July 31st 2015 @ 1:33pm
            Nicholas Rupolo said | July 31st 2015 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

            i am concerned about Newcastle Jets, sure we have our rivalries but we want to proceed into the future as a league

    • July 31st 2015 @ 9:53am
      AZ_RBB said | July 31st 2015 @ 9:53am | ! Report

      Really good article. Great sum up of international football so far this year.

      But a couple of things. Not too sure about the 10k minimum crowds at the Asian Cup. Felt as though we had a few below 10k.

      Also, probably worth mentioning the farcical semi final in AFCON 2015 where Equatoguinean fans attacked the Ghana team stopping the game for quite some time and for some unknown reason it restarted only to be concluded a few minutes later well before the 90mins were up.

      • July 31st 2015 @ 10:06am
        Marty Gleason said | July 31st 2015 @ 10:06am | ! Report

        Excellent point about the riots in Equatorial Guinea. That is definitely what that tournament will be known for when history looks back. It was arguably highly political/social in nature and Ghana beating their team seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Which doesn’t excuse it, but without trying to be too Leftist about the whole thing it appeared to be about a population at wit’s end.

        The tournament shouldn’t have been there but there was a rush to find a venue after Morocco bailed.

    • July 31st 2015 @ 10:51am
      Bob said | July 31st 2015 @ 10:51am | ! Report

      There’s more to be optimistic about that worried about imo. Nice article here talking about the MLS which is at a high level but interesting, 10 years older than us, 300 million people v 22 million people, but trying to establish itself after previous failed attempts so comparisons are there yes, just not direct comparisons:

      http://mobile.gazettenet.com/home/17986749-108/mls-attendance-on-rise-with-big-name-international-players

      I don’t think we make enough of our key differentiator – international football games, we need some regular high profile games on Australian soil: maybe an annual Australia Day match v USA? ANZAC Day v NZ? Ashes series v England every 4 years? Brazil, Argentina, Spain? A 4 nations tournament with China, Japan, Korea maybe???

    • July 31st 2015 @ 3:31pm
      AZ_RBB said | July 31st 2015 @ 3:31pm | ! Report

      There might be some doom and gloom about the aleague but WSW have just passed 15k members. Yet to go on sale to the public.

      • July 31st 2015 @ 4:28pm
        Waz said | July 31st 2015 @ 4:28pm | ! Report

        So many people and so few flares to go around ….

        • July 31st 2015 @ 4:32pm
          AZ_RBB said | July 31st 2015 @ 4:32pm | ! Report

          Excuse me? Here in West Sydney we pride ourselves on our ability to meet all your pyrotechnic needs. No child will be left behind (without a flare)

          • July 31st 2015 @ 10:53pm
            Waz said | July 31st 2015 @ 10:53pm | ! Report

            lol

    • July 31st 2015 @ 6:18pm
      MatthewSkellett said | July 31st 2015 @ 6:18pm | ! Report

      The RBB certainly let the flare issue rear its flaming head at Popendetta Park last night 😉

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