The Socceroos are going to get ‘smashed’ in Russia

Stuart Thomas Columnist

By Stuart Thomas, 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.

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    The Crowd Says (98)

    • December 5th 2017 @ 6:40am
      chris said | December 5th 2017 @ 6:40am | ! Report

      Australia will do well at the finals and will have just as much of a chance to progress as Peru and Denmark. First game against France will be key of course, as has been stated by many already. When we want to test ourselves against the best this is what confronts us.
      When you are happy to be the biggest player in your own backyard well…don’t play football and play something else.

      • December 5th 2017 @ 6:54am
        Not so super said | December 5th 2017 @ 6:54am | ! Report

        Bookies disagree.

        • December 5th 2017 @ 6:58am
          chris said | December 5th 2017 @ 6:58am | ! Report

          So do the rankings. But don’t underestimate this group of players. Despite all the naysayers (like yourself) we are there and we won’t disappoint.

          • Roar Guru

            December 5th 2017 @ 2:51pm
            Chris Kettlewell said | December 5th 2017 @ 2:51pm | ! Report

            Rankings are dodgy anyway. The fact Australia are part of Asia makes it almost impossible to have a ranking that’s as high as other teams. The fact is that 2 of the 3 teams Australia are up against also failed to get direct qualification and had to go through playoffs also. That suggests that they are probably on the weaker side of teams we could potentially have come up against.

            Australia was in Pot 4, so therefore, we were always going to have to face 3 teams ranked above us. We were always going to be in a situation where we had to get passed higher ranked teams to get through to the knockout phase. Of the teams we could have got, it’s a pretty decent draw. Not the easiest we could have possibly got, but not too bad. No matter what opposition we got, the bookies were always going to be against us, we were always going to be the lowest ranked team in the group. But it’s a doable group.

            The pots being worked out according to rankings seemed to have worked pretty well. There are a couple of groups you’d classify as a bit weaker, but overall there isn’t a group of death or a really weak group in there.

        • December 5th 2017 @ 7:18am
          punter said | December 5th 2017 @ 7:18am | ! Report

          Stuart, here we give you an example of those you talk about.

          Funny, I can only say fear drives these sort of comments.

          Not a big fan of Basketball, too much up & down & too many pts, but at Olympics, I’m a big Opals or Boomers fan, always had passion for Wallabies, love my Test cricket national team, as for one dayers & T20, will follow them in the world cup only, I cheered for the Kangaroos, but I have 4 brother in laws in England, they have given me heaps on the Rugby & I have on them about the cricket, but they did not know the RL final was on.
          Always following Jason Day, Adam Scott, Richie Porte, even our current tennis players (just hope a couple of them would grow up), love our swimmers, athletes that compete for our country.

          • Roar Guru

            December 5th 2017 @ 1:45pm
            Mango Jack said | December 5th 2017 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

            True, Punter. It’s beyond sad when someone puts their prejudices about a sport ahead of supporting their national team. Even if you only watch them once a year, this is the biggest stage in world sport, and we are there! Go Socceroos!

            • December 5th 2017 @ 7:48pm
              punter said | December 5th 2017 @ 7:48pm | ! Report

              Exactly Mango, this is the biggest sporting event in the world even if you don’t follow the sport doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy your country participating in it.

        • December 5th 2017 @ 8:13am
          g said | December 5th 2017 @ 8:13am | ! Report

          who really cares what bookmakers think, oh unless you are some kind of master punter! bookies looove them!

          • December 5th 2017 @ 10:24am
            Lionheart said | December 5th 2017 @ 10:24am | ! Report

            some great comments in reply – yours tops them off nicely g

    • December 5th 2017 @ 6:52am
      punter said | December 5th 2017 @ 6:52am | ! Report

      Well written article Stuart & very similar thoughts to myself.
      I’m off to Russia & I’m going to enjoy it, we are ranked 30th in a tournament with 32 teams of which 16 will leave after the first round. What are my expectations, well to enjoy this experience, this is the greatest sporting event bar none in the world.
      Unlike Olympics where you spend whole time discussing sports you hardly know or follow or following a race where you recognise 3-5 athletes at best. At the World cup you are discussing football, with like minded passionate & knowledgeable football fans about best players, best teams ever, current tactics, current players, all over a cold beer from all over the world. I love my sports, but there is nothing better.

      My dream would be to drag a draw out of France, beat Denmark & draw with Peru, qualify for 2nd round, draw Argentina & Messi, cause a major upset with a win on penalties, play Spain in 1/4 finals & revenge lost from 4 years ago with a 2-1 win, starting to stir now, but forcing my dream to continue, play the game of our lives to beat Germany 3-1 in the semis & then totally destroy England (this is now an unrealistic dream, England in the final) 3-0 in the Final to win the, oh no, I’m wide awake now, I’m hoping to enjoy myself at the world cup.

      • December 5th 2017 @ 8:22am
        Chopper said | December 5th 2017 @ 8:22am | ! Report

        Enjoy Punter, I went to Germany 06 and had the time of my life because it is a once in a lifetime experience.

    • December 5th 2017 @ 7:09am
      Chris Love said | December 5th 2017 @ 7:09am | ! Report

      I’m not a big Soccer fan but like every World Cup they qualify I’ll back them. I usually also support anyone that’s playing Italy after the dive in the round of 16 all those years back. No Italy is already sweet enough I reckon.

      I say go on write off the Aussies, let everyone know how bad they are and have no chance in Russia. Just like in 06! You know what happens when you put Aussies in that position. You get a big surprise.

      • December 5th 2017 @ 7:20am
        punter said | December 5th 2017 @ 7:20am | ! Report

        Thanks Chris, this is exactly how I am for many of the sports I don’t really follow. I always follow my national team.

        • Roar Guru

          December 5th 2017 @ 1:06pm
          Griffo said | December 5th 2017 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

          Exactly punter.

          Happy we are world champs in league for both men and womens.

          Under every club shirt of any sport, is the nation’s green and gold 😉

      • Roar Rookie

        December 5th 2017 @ 7:59am
        Stevo said | December 5th 2017 @ 7:59am | ! Report

        This is exactly why the Socceroos can pull 1.5M viewers to WC qualifier. Sporting folk of all sorts genuinely love seeing the Aussie national side compete on the world stage alongside the top nations. This is why getting to the WC is important. It provides a great sporting spectacle and generates a lot of water cooler talk.

        • December 5th 2017 @ 10:26am
          Lionheart said | December 5th 2017 @ 10:26am | ! Report

          and it is why they need to realise that if we want the Socceroos to do well, we must support and grow the A League

          • December 5th 2017 @ 3:27pm
            Nick Symonds said | December 5th 2017 @ 3:27pm | ! Report

            “and it is why they need to realise that if we want the Socceroos to do well, we must support and grow the A League”

            This from The World Game –

            “The overall figures (TV ratings) between rounds eight and nine represented a 24 per cent drop, the most significant weekly fall of the season so far.

            Meanwhile walk-up attendances continue to lag, with no single game in Round Nine cracking the 9000 barrier.”


            TV networks and sponsors will NOT be happy. There goes the revenue.


            • December 5th 2017 @ 3:43pm
              Nemeis said | December 5th 2017 @ 3:43pm | ! Report

              Utterly ridiculous to even mention “weekly fall in ratings”. It demonstrates the journalist/writer has zero understanding of statistics & the football fixture.

              Just as ridiculous will be to use any bump in TV ratings next round to say “we are flying high”.

              Journalists who don’t understand how to analyse numbers should stick to creative writing.

      • December 5th 2017 @ 1:37pm
        NickoM1960 said | December 5th 2017 @ 1:37pm | ! Report

        Exactly Chris, once you pull on the Australian uniform in any sport in any situation you get my support. There have been some great moments in sports I don’t normally follow especially underdog Australian teams who rise to the occasion.
        Why would anyone be negative?

    • December 5th 2017 @ 7:50am
      jamesb said | December 5th 2017 @ 7:50am | ! Report

      I think whats happened is that the media and people on “facebook” looked at the rankings of Australia’s opponents and came to the conclusion that Australia will get smashed.

      For starters, Peru and Denmark been ranked 11th and 12th respectively flatters both of them. Peru and Denmark should be ranked somewhere in the twenties. Uruguay and Iceland are ranked 21 and 22 respectively. IMO Uruguay and Iceland are far superior, and have achieved more in recent times compared to Peru and Denmark.

      And if you were to have a comparison with Australia and Denmark over the last four years, then the rankings don’t make sense. Denmark fail to qualify for Brazil and Euro 2016, while Australia qualified for Brazil, won the Asian Cup, and yet the rankings shows, Denmark 12, Australia 39. Try figure that out.

      • December 5th 2017 @ 8:26am
        AGO74 said | December 5th 2017 @ 8:26am | ! Report

        Anyone who follows football relatively closely knows FIFA rankings can be quite volatile in terms of its outcomes once you get beyond even the top 7 or 8 nations.

        • Roar Guru

          December 5th 2017 @ 1:13pm
          Griffo said | December 5th 2017 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

          ELO rankings are often cited as being more accurate.

          Team (ELO ranking)

          France (5)
          Australia (33)
          Denmark (19)
          Peru (12)

          It’s a tough group. Have an off-day and the other teams will get something. You will have to play the game of your life (says Ryan) to get something. I think this will apply to even France.

          Complacency will get you an early ticket home.

          • Roar Rookie

            December 5th 2017 @ 4:30pm
            Brendo51 said | December 5th 2017 @ 4:30pm | ! Report

            France is a mile ahead of us but we are lucky to be facing them first up. A lot of the early matches are cagey affairs where teams don’t want to lose. If we could ek out a draw it would place us in a very strong position to progress.

            Not a lot of difference between Denmark and us, the bias towards UEFA in the ranking easily accounts for 5-7 places and puts us close enough for there to be little difference. They skated through their very easy group to finish 2nd and then faced possibly the worst 2nd place team in Ireland. They rely heavily on Eriksen (who scored 11 Goals throughout qualifying) and without him they are pretty average. Shut him out of the game and we are in with a chance of winning.

            Peru is no doubt a strong team at home and got some great results against some of the better teams in Sth America but the World Cup is not being played in Peru. Away from home they are very average. People seem to forget they only just scrapped into 5th spot in Sth America because they were awarded a 3-0 away win when Bolivia played a ineligible player, without that we would be facing Chile (imo a much tougher ask). The only team they beat away from home was Paraguay and don’t forget they couldn’t score when in NZ during the playoffs. They are beatable no doubt.

            Should we be favorites to progress god no, but don’t write us off just yet.

            • December 5th 2017 @ 7:09pm
              pacman said | December 5th 2017 @ 7:09pm | ! Report

              Good points Brendo. Our opponents, with the possible exception of France, do not appear to deserve the status heaped upon them. Peru and Denmark are very beatable, and it will quite possibly depend on the bounce of the ball. Realistically, I give us a 40/60 chance of progressing, so a little fortune will convert my 40/60 to 60/40. After that, who knows?

            • December 5th 2017 @ 9:08pm
              chris said | December 5th 2017 @ 9:08pm | ! Report

              Brendo the ignorant and lazy msm wont have a clue about our group apart from the FIFA rankings.
              What you wrote is spot on and I totally agree. This Denmark side is not a patch on the 80s and early 90s Danish teams.

      • December 5th 2017 @ 8:32am
        Mick said | December 5th 2017 @ 8:32am | ! Report

        James, disagree, this was said before the world cup draw, nothing to do with rankings.
        We simply don’t have the cattle to compete with any side that has qualified for the world cup.

        A 39 year old leading the pack tells you what quality we have – The FFA need to put their hand up and take full responsibility.

        And please, please don’t compare Denmark and Australia, you’re a fool if you think Australia should be ranked higher than Denmark.

        • December 5th 2017 @ 9:10am
          chris said | December 5th 2017 @ 9:10am | ! Report

          Mick not sure how closely you follow football. If you think a 39yo (wrong with his age for a start) is leading the line as you say, then i doubt you follow the team very closely.

        • December 5th 2017 @ 11:38am
          jamesb said | December 5th 2017 @ 11:38am | ! Report


          If you were to read my post again, I never said that Australia should be ranked higher than Denmark. I only did a comparison between the two sides achievements over the last four years.

          And if you are taking the FIFA rankings as an accurate guide to form an opinion on a side like Australia, than you would be a fool for ignoring some of the flaws in the system.

      • December 5th 2017 @ 1:44pm
        NickoM1960 said | December 5th 2017 @ 1:44pm | ! Report

        Why play the games then?

        Just award the trophy to the highest ranked team that qualified. Simple.

        These tournaments ALWAYS toss up big upsets, they’ve already started in qualifying and that’s with H & A ties over a long period, let alone in a one game stay or go home scenario.

        Some teams in sport thrive in season long competitions and some know how to play tournaments and can beat “better” teams on any given day.

    • Roar Guru

      December 5th 2017 @ 8:02am
      Rabbitz said | December 5th 2017 @ 8:02am | ! Report

      In the equestrian world, there is a phrase “In, around and out”. What this means is that you enter the ring (in), do the initial circuits in front of the judge (around), fail to get selected and exit the ring (out).

      Ask any rider, groom, strapper or breeder – you’ve got to do a lot of In, around and outs before you get good enough to get selected.

      It seems that Football World Cup isn’t that much different. So if the Socceroos do go “in, around and out” as long as they learn and improve, what is the problem?

      • December 5th 2017 @ 8:31am
        AGO74 said | December 5th 2017 @ 8:31am | ! Report

        Because this team arguably did the in around and out 4 years ago when majority of team were raw and most had less than 10 caps.

        The nucleus of this team has been together 4 years and in that time have become Asian champions. Sure there has been some difficult periods this year but it is unarguable this team is in a far better position than it was 4 years ago. Does it mean we will qualify out of our group? No. However it means (when combined with a relatively even group in terms of competitiveness against Denmark and Peru) that we should aspire to get out of our group this time.

    • December 5th 2017 @ 8:08am
      Matthew Wilson said | December 5th 2017 @ 8:08am | ! Report


      To be honest I didn’t read the article but I could gauge your negative attitude from the heading….

      I’ve been folllowing the Socceroos closely for about 12/13 years now and the one reason I disagree with you in because the Socceroos thrive on being underdogs. Call it Aussie spirit, or whatever it is but mark my words, I have seen the Socceroos get ridiculed time and time again but when under pressure they always perform.

      • Roar Rookie

        December 5th 2017 @ 9:43am
        At work said | December 5th 2017 @ 9:43am | ! Report

        Matthew Wilson – By not reading the article you have missed the entire point that stuart was making, but well done getting ahead of yourself.

      • December 5th 2017 @ 10:16am
        BBA said | December 5th 2017 @ 10:16am | ! Report

        To be fair to Stuart his article was exact opposite of the headline and one of his rebuttals were identical to yours. It has been my experience that headlines (written by the editorial staff and not the author) don’t always match the thrust of the article (shock horror).

      • Roar Pro

        December 5th 2017 @ 12:46pm
        David McDaniel said | December 5th 2017 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

        My mind boggles that people will comment on a article without actually reading it first. It does seem indicative of todays society however.

      • Columnist

        December 5th 2017 @ 3:40pm
        Stuart Thomas said | December 5th 2017 @ 3:40pm | ! Report

        I don’t know what to say?

        • December 5th 2017 @ 7:22pm
          pacman said | December 5th 2017 @ 7:22pm | ! Report

          Say nothing Stuart.

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