History suggests Socceroos fans set for nervy night

Matt Somerford Roar Rookie

By Matt Somerford, Matt Somerford is a Roar Rookie

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    In the drawn-out procedure that has been Australia’s World Cup qualification campaign, there is some satisfaction to be gained from the fact that it will end, for better or worse, in the one place that the relatively young football nation has grown accustomed.

    Australia might not yet readily identify itself as a football nation – or even a soccer nation for that matter – but it can recount better than any other country the emotional trespass of a World Cup qualification playoff.

    The Socceroos have been involved in World Cup playoffs in five of the past seven qualification campaigns. Only neighbours New Zealand, for whom such games are a formality of their qualification, have been involved in more during that time.

    It has been the stage on which Australian football’s most recognisable moments have been played out and, for casual Aussie sports fans at least, its identity forged as it jostles for its place in a crowded sporting landscape.

    The wide-eyed hysteria that greeted John Aloisi’s clinching penalty against Uruguay in 2005 – which ended a 32-year wait to make the finals – remains one of the most visible memories in recent Australian sporting history.

    John Aloisi celebrates scoring his penalty against Uruguay

    AAP Image/Dean Lewins

    The bewilderment on Mark Bosnich’s face in 1997, after he had been unfathomably exposed by his defence to allow Khodadad Azizi to slip Iran through the back door to qualification, is equally as ingrained on the national sporting psyche.

    Four years earlier, Australia narrowly bowed out to an Argentina side that welcomed Diego Maradona back from a drugs ban, then saw him promptly suspended for the finals in the United States.

    Speaking about that tie a few years ago, Maradona suggested he and his teammates had been given prescribed enhancements on the morning of that second leg – which he curiously labelled ‘speedy coffee’ – as a fluke Gabriel Batistuta strike decided the tie 2-1.

    It was such near-misses that led to the throat-clearing delight of Sydney 12 years ago but – following Australia’s move into the Asian region – has not since been revisited.

    Until Wednesday night.

    The Socceroos’ bid to qualify for a fourth successive World Cup final with the cold comfort of a 0-0 result away in the first leg in Honduras.

    They will do so with a sense of the Prodigal Son’s return – certainly wastefulness in front of goal has been a key factor in their inability to secure direct qualification – and the cautioned step of a nation that knows full well the potential pitfalls that await.

    Most significant of those is the lack of an away goal from a first leg they dominated but, yet again, failed to turn into anything meaningful on the scoreboard. It has been Australia’s Achilles heel as they have relied too heavily on ageing striker Tim Cahill.

    While Australia’s belief will be fuelled by Honduras’ surprising lack of punch on their home pitch, they remain at the mercy of one error leading to a goal.

    Mark Milligan made such a mistake against Syria in the AFC playoff a month ago, before a nervy display followed that relied on Cahill’s goalscoring nous to draw Australia into this final round of qualification.

    The record goalscorer missed the first leg against Honduras after rolling his ankle during an A-League match the week previous and his potential return is one of many positives the Socceroos should take into the match.

    Australia should too benefit from being able to bring in fresh legs, after the taxing conditions of San Pedro Sula’s heavy pitch, while the state-of-the-art recovery comforts on the chartered return flight has been much discussed as Honduras laboured their way Down Under some 24 hours later.

    The visitors have a poor record away in recent years too – winning just one of their past nine World Cup qualifiers – while Australia have won 18 and drawn three of their past 21 World Cup qualification matches at home.

    If the numbers say Australia progresses in comfort then the memories of World Cup playoffs past will ensure no fan would dare be so complacent.

    Indeed, Italy’s shock exit will serve to remind of the hidden dangers of playoffs and the Socceroos only need to remember the two countries that qualified from their ‘Group of Death’ in Brazil four years ago – Holland and Chile – have already seen their hopes of making the finals ended.

    Getting to World Cup finals is tough work and, should Australia manage it, they will be in the elite company of 11 countries to have reached the past four finals.

    But the cut-throat nature of playoff ties means that any mistake is amplified – an irony after Australia’s long and winding road to this point – with those images of past playoff disasters just a creeping distance from memory.

    Australia’s favouritism to progress will also bestow an element of pressure not felt since the Iran match at the MCG two decades ago.

    As a guard against any lethargy that pressure might provoke among his players, boss Ange Postecoglou – whose own future has been a further distraction around the tie – has proclaimed that his side would go all out to win the match and that it was up to Honduras to keep pace.

    It is a bold and clear indication that Australia plans to run Honduras off their feet and make the most of their travel advantage and deeper squad. To score early and keep on pushing. A well-laid plan.

    It’s arguable, however, that well-laid plan in World Cup playoffs have not been Australia’s success point – unexpected first-half substitutions were instrumental in the Socceroos’ previous two home playoff wins – and if they are to progress, all indications are they will have to weather a few plot twists along the way.

    It is the least Australia fans expect.

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    The Crowd Says (43)

    • November 15th 2017 @ 9:07am
      Nemesis said | November 15th 2017 @ 9:07am | ! Report

      “It has been Australia’s Achilles heel as they have relied too heavily on ageing striker Tim Cahill. ”

      Utter nonsense.

      If you’re taking the time to write a 500 world article, the least you can do is basic research, rather than regurgitate stuff you’ve heard or read from other uninformed sources.

      At the most basic level, check

      1) how many minutes Cahill played during the past 13 WCQs
      2) how many goals Cahill scored during the past 13 WCQs

      If you still conclude: “AUS have relied too heavily on ageing striker Tim Cahill” then your analysis is flawed.

      If you follow the National Team more than 12 years, you’d know that every WCQ match for the past 40 years has been a nervy night/early morning unless we are leading by 3 clear goals.

      • November 15th 2017 @ 11:00am
        Matt Somerford said | November 15th 2017 @ 11:00am | ! Report

        Sounds like you’re already pretty anxious. Thanks for reading.

        • November 15th 2017 @ 11:12am
          Nemesis said | November 15th 2017 @ 11:12am | ! Report

          Always anxious. I was anxious when Hiddink took the team to Honiara to play Solomon Islands for the Oceania playoff.

    • November 15th 2017 @ 10:21am
      Marcel said | November 15th 2017 @ 10:21am | ! Report

      Thanks for your thoughts Matt….to be honest I missed the Socceroos v Jordan match last month.
      I will be sure to let you know my own google sourced opinion on the AFL Draft (after I find out what it actually is).

      Its great the the WC attracts so many sightseers..but what is it that compels you people to believe that it requires your input?…do you really feel that gifting us with your attention once every 4 years adds to the competitions legitimacy?

      • November 15th 2017 @ 11:05am
        Matt Somerford said | November 15th 2017 @ 11:05am | ! Report

        A really disappointing reply. I’ve covered football in Europe for the past decade – including Roos games. I steer clear of writing on them on here because of these unneccesarily spiky rebukes. I have merely depicted the emotional rollercoaster of a night we are returning to after 12 years. In a perverse way I’ve missed these games. #goroos

        • November 15th 2017 @ 11:11am
          Nemesis said | November 15th 2017 @ 11:11am | ! Report

          Matt, if you’re watching all the AUS Qualifiers, how is it you still trot out the rubbish about “relying on Tim Cahill”. I know you’re not the only one, but, if you did actually watch AUS last 13 WCQs over the past 2 years you’d know that, apart from one match, Tim Cahill has played a bit part.

          • November 15th 2017 @ 11:27am
            Jordan Lewis said | November 15th 2017 @ 11:27am | ! Report

            Because he’s our record scorer. Because while he has been a bit-part player we’ve struggled to score (the biggest issue of the qualifiers). Because if it wasn’t for him we would have gone out against Jordan. Because no-one has replaced him as a reliable source of goals. Because we dominated Honduras in the first leg and didn’t score. Because he is big time & this is a big game. Son’t care who scores the goals for us tonite but it would surprise no-one if TC stepped up when it counted.

            • November 15th 2017 @ 12:05pm
              Nemesis said | November 15th 2017 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

              “Because while he has been a bit-part player we’ve struggled to score Because no-one has replaced him as a reliable source of goals.”

              Rubbish.

              Go do some research & see how many goals per game we’ve averaged without Cahill & with Cahill.

              Go do some research & see how many goals per game we scored in Asia with Kewell, Emerton, Bresciano, Cahill, etc. for WC2010 Qualifiers compared to 2018 WCQ.

              There is no difference.

              WC2010 Qualifiers (2nd Group Stage): 1.5 goals per game
              WC2018 Qualifiers (2nd Group Stage): 1.6 goals per game (Cahill scored just 1 out of 16)

              • November 15th 2017 @ 12:21pm
                Matt Somerford said | November 15th 2017 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

                Australia conceded one goal in that 2010 campaign. They didn’t need to go out and score goals. It was tactically a different team.
                Simply grabbing stats without context is NOT research. This team has needed to score goals because they are defensively inferior. They have not been able to score enough goals to win enough games and secure direct qualification – as the 2010 and 2014 teams did.

              • November 15th 2017 @ 12:53pm
                Nemesis said | November 15th 2017 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

                Your premise is: “We rely on Tim Cahill for goals”.

                This is utter rubbish.

                If you change your premise to: “We rely on more goals to win”, then I will agree with your premise.

                Currently, you are factually incorrect if you suggest this team relies on Tim Cahill to score. We rely on our attackers to score.

                Tim played in attack against Syria & he scored.

                The only other match Tim Cahill has started during WCQ during the past 12 months was vs Thailand at home & Cahill played 57 mins and he did not score. In fact, he missed several chances as did many others.

                That day, when Cahill started vs Thailand, Australia relied on Tomi Juric & Matt Leckie to score.

                So, let’s stop the nonsense about “AUS relies on Cahill”. We do not. We rely on the guys in attack to score. We rely on the defence & GK to stop the opposition from scoring. That’s their jobs.

              • November 15th 2017 @ 3:45pm
                Matt Somerford said | November 15th 2017 @ 3:45pm | ! Report

                In my opinion we rely on Cahill.

                In his absence (you are right he has laregly been an absent figure for most of this campaign) but without him we haven’t directly qualified from Asia for the first time and lacked the punch in front of goal to win games……and if it wasn’t for him we would have gone out against Syria. We turned to him in our hour of need. Seems like a pretty big reliance. Whether you like it or not that’s a fair opinion to have.

                Worth noting this was just one sentence in a story depicting the emotional torment of World Cup quailfication playoff matches & how Australian fans know that despair (and joy) all too well. I’m sorry you missed that. Hope you enjoy the game. #goroos

        • November 15th 2017 @ 11:42am
          Marcel said | November 15th 2017 @ 11:42am | ! Report

          Are you really disappointed Matt?
          Your article is so obviously based on nothing more than a quick scan of headlines and highlights packages..someone who had actually watched the games could not possibly arrive at the same conclusions…we are not talking about opinions here ….just accuracy of reporting.

          Do you really think this forum, on match day, is the right time and place to tell the football community that they are not a genuine part of the “real” Australia

          BTW we played Syria last month not Jordan….

          • November 15th 2017 @ 11:57am
            Matt Somerford said | November 15th 2017 @ 11:57am | ! Report

            I think you must have read a different article.

          • November 15th 2017 @ 3:36pm
            Matt Somerford said | November 15th 2017 @ 3:36pm | ! Report

            Entertain me.
            Let me know the apparent inaccuracy of reporting and where I’ve suggested the football community is not part of the ‘real’ Australia. (I’m keen to delve into your mind and how you came to this conclusion).

            It should make for entertaining reading for anyone who logs onto this page.

            • November 15th 2017 @ 4:09pm
              Marcel said | November 15th 2017 @ 4:09pm | ! Report

              Ok lets start with the fact that the original version of this article claimed that we played Jordan last month…Seriously!! I would just keep quiet if I had made that mistake.

              Then the assertion that we have relied on Cahill runs entirely contrary to what actually happened on the pitch throughout the qualifying series.

              “Australia might not yet readily identify itself as a football nation – or even a soccer nation for that matter”…..Surely I don’t need to explain the dynamics of that wording to you…..If you still don’t understand, try making similar assertions about gender, race and religion and see where that gets you.

              • November 15th 2017 @ 4:16pm
                Marcel said | November 15th 2017 @ 4:16pm | ! Report

                It is true PJ..I pointed it out twice before it was changed

              • November 15th 2017 @ 4:44pm
                Matt Somerford said | November 15th 2017 @ 4:44pm | ! Report

                I’m sorry Marcel but Australia doesn’t readily identify itself as a football nation (or soccer). It is a multi-code nation and, whether we like it or not – football is down the pecking order. It’s just a fact.
                Participation has always been high amongst junior (and has been for a long time) but football is hardly at the front of the nation’s concious.
                That is just a fact, no matter how uncomfortable it is for football fans – of which I am a proud one and have been for a very long time.
                Your ill-conceived remarks about my knowledge, and passion, for football is frustrating but at the same time understandable given the blowhorn of abuse football fans get in this country. Please don;t fall into the trap of turning such abuse on anyone you think might sit across the code divide.
                You may not agree with my opinion on Cahill – and I understand why – but in our hour of need, in a campaign we struggled for goals without him – we turned to him and he delivered. He has delivered for over a decade. I was in the stands at Kaiserslautern when he delivered against Japan in 2006. the man is big time and we still haven’t filled that void.
                What I was stating was clearly true – that football sits in a crowded sporting landscape inside Australia – and outside too – and that the majority of people would not identify our country as a football nation. That is changing but I’ve lived overseas for a long time and when you say you;re Australian people want to talk rugby, cricket, basketball and enquire ‘what the hell is Aussie Rules’ before they think about football.
                That is just fact. We know it’s changing and matched like tonight will only help take us closer to a point where more people appreciated the intricacies of the world game.
                If previous World Cup playoffs are an indicator, tonight’s game will run the nation through a full list of emotions and – as we look to get more casual observers to understand the game – that kind of drama can only be a good thing.

                Also a key point. I never ever suggested anything about race, religion or gender in my article. I honestly can’t see the link you have made to that or why you would do that.

              • November 15th 2017 @ 4:54pm
                Nemesis said | November 15th 2017 @ 4:54pm | ! Report

                Ha! I’ve travelled, lived & worked overseas. I’ve never had anyone ever want to talk about Aussie Rules. Heck. When I travel to Qld or NSW, no one cares about Aussie Rules.

                And, you suggest people want to talk Australian Basketball, but not Football.

                I laughed & I laughed.

                You’re just another blow-in, who pretends to be a sokkah fan every 4 years. You’ve exposed yourself with basic factual errors that stem from not actually following the National Team, other than the goal highlights & the results.

                PS: If you think Football always had high participation in Australia you’re kidding yourself. When I was at primary school & early years of secondary school, the sporting inventory didn’t even include a soccer ball. So, again, you’re talking nonsense.

                Football is massive in Australia. It’s just that people don’t watch any one particular team in big numbers. They watch teams from ALeague, grassroots, overseas leagues & when you add up all the numbers of such people football viewing is as big as any sport in Australia. Football participation for adults is bigger than Aussie Rules, RL & Union combined.

              • November 15th 2017 @ 4:54pm
                Matt Somerford said | November 15th 2017 @ 4:54pm | ! Report

                I’m sorry you feel the need to make a personal attack. I have never been a Hawthorn fan!

              • November 15th 2017 @ 5:05pm
                Marcel said | November 15th 2017 @ 5:05pm | ! Report

                Matt..a lot has changed here in the 12 years you’ve been out of town…both in football terms …and also the way this country views statements about identity and inclusiveness.

                Lets park it for another day….Go the Socceroos

              • November 15th 2017 @ 5:20pm
                Matt Somerford said | November 15th 2017 @ 5:20pm | ! Report

                It’s parked forever. A baffling array of arguments, but enjoy your life the best you can.

              • November 15th 2017 @ 6:15pm
                pacman said | November 15th 2017 @ 6:15pm | ! Report

                @Nem:

                “PS: If you think Football always had high participation in Australia you’re kidding yourself. When I was at primary school & early years of secondary school, the sporting inventory didn’t even include a soccer ball. So, again, you’re talking nonsense.”.

                Depends where you went to school. At primary school in Sydney’s western suburbs during the ’50s, it was 50/50. Moving on to high school, it was about 60/40 in favour of soccer. Junior club soccer was also strong – Canterbury Bankstown JRL had a junior rugby league competition, whilst junior soccer was governed by two associations, one for Bankstown, and one for Canterbury.

                Once again, it depended where you lived, and where you went to school. Anti-soccer bias was stridently rife in western Queensland as recently as 30 years ago. Headmaster of one school banned soccer balls from the school premises.

    • Roar Guru

      November 15th 2017 @ 11:37am
      Griffo said | November 15th 2017 @ 11:37am | ! Report

      Already a tad nervous…too much whispering in my ear about what might be…

      I’d still rather directly qualify, obviously, but looking forward to tonight… 😐

      • November 15th 2017 @ 1:18pm
        punter said | November 15th 2017 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

        Griffo, in football as in life, there is always doubts, stay positive, stay strong, tonight & for next couple of days we are one, we are the Socceroos, we are Australia.
        Come Sat night, we are hating on each other, ahhhhhh sport at it’s best.

    • November 15th 2017 @ 12:04pm
      M20 said | November 15th 2017 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

      C’mon Socceroos!

    • Roar Pro

      November 15th 2017 @ 2:59pm
      anon said | November 15th 2017 @ 2:59pm | ! Report

      If this game were an international friendly then Australia 1-0 or 2-0 at home.

      But alas it’s not.

      Honduras will have a certain freedom playing this one away knowing they’re underdogs now.

      All the pressure on the world on Australia to score because a draw isn’t enough.

      Honduras will lay it all on the line with a World Cup spot up for grabs.

      Australia seems to think it’s just going to happen for them like in the previous three campaigns. They seem complacent and have been for 12 months.

      Pressure does funny things, the away goal rule creates a strange dynamic in these games.

      Ange has to be more defensive than he’d normally like to be.

      His legacy will be in tatters if he gets bundled out at home after giving away yet another cheap goal on the counter attack.

      • November 15th 2017 @ 3:37pm
        Matt Somerford said | November 15th 2017 @ 3:37pm | ! Report

        Spot on. It’s why these games are so excruciatingly brilliant.

    • November 15th 2017 @ 3:33pm
      Perry Bridge said | November 15th 2017 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

      Denmark got through 5-1. I couldn’t care less about Australia now (is it bad for me to say?) – the people I know who really care are extended family in Denmark – I’m wrapt for them and ponder now whether an Øresund Derby might eventuate? Just to qualify this – I don’t know many Australian’s who are any more than Olympics style once every 4 years pseudo experts re the socceroos (when the FIFA WC comes around).

      • November 15th 2017 @ 3:48pm
        Matt Somerford said | November 15th 2017 @ 3:48pm | ! Report

        Was in Copenhagen earlier this year. Great country and very happy to see Sweden, Iceland and Denmark at the World Cup finals. A favourite part of the world up there.

      • November 15th 2017 @ 4:31pm
        Redondo said | November 15th 2017 @ 4:31pm | ! Report

        Good for you Perry – but why do you think anyone is interested in your lack of interest?

        • November 15th 2017 @ 4:48pm
          clipper said | November 15th 2017 @ 4:48pm | ! Report

          Perry does have a point – the Socceroos qualifying game has completely overshadowed the RLWC currently being played in Australia, yet how many of these ‘fans’ will tune in to the regular season. Plus Denmark have consistently been in the top 20 and are currently 12th.

          • November 15th 2017 @ 6:43pm
            Nemesis said | November 15th 2017 @ 6:43pm | ! Report

            “Plus Denmark have consistently been in the top 20 and are currently 12th.”

            Simply not true. This is why football fans get upset. People come here to try to contradict stuff football fans say, but they’re using nonsense as the basis for their contradictions.

            Denmark has not been in the Top 20 consistently.

            As recently as April 2017 (i.e. 7 months ago) Denmark was ranked #51 in the world. This is lower than where Australia currently sits. 2 months ago, Denmark was ranked #46.

            In fact, from Dec 2015-Aug 2017, Denmark’s average rank was #45 & Median Rank was #46.

            • November 15th 2017 @ 6:54pm
              Matt Somerford said | November 15th 2017 @ 6:54pm | ! Report

              Cahill starting. Looks like we’re relying on him in a big game…who would have thought.

              • November 15th 2017 @ 11:45pm
                Nemesis said | November 15th 2017 @ 11:45pm | ! Report

                Didn’t rely on him at all

                Goal 1: We relied on Tommy Rogic to make that brilliant solo run that led to the free kick for the opening goal.

                Goal 2 & Goal 3: We relied on Timmy Cahill to be sitting on the bench, so the movement of players & ball was much more the way we should be playing.

                By no definition of the verb “to rely”, has the National Team “relied” on Tim Cahill to get to Russia.

              • November 16th 2017 @ 1:01am
                potatojuice said | November 16th 2017 @ 1:01am | ! Report

                Matty. Be quiet. Never write such embarrassing stuff. You are an absolute pudding.

        • November 16th 2017 @ 6:56am
          Perry Bridge said | November 16th 2017 @ 6:56am | ! Report

          #Redondo

          Not many options on theRoar to celebrate the progress of Denmark.

          (no idea what Clipper is on about……)

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