After ten consecutive World Cup Qualifying match wins, the Socceroos sit atop Group B and could not have asked for a better start in their journey to Qatar 2022.
Tuesday night’s win against Vietnam was uninspiring thanks to a humid evening and a sticky pitch that did little to promote sparkling football. Yet Socceroo fans will rejoice in full knowledge that any alternative would have had Graham Arnold and his team under the pump right from the off.
For now, they know that if the men in green and gold can manage six wins from their next eight matches, Qatar awaits.
It all feels quite weird, frankly. Thus far, there has been little stress or angst, despite a cagey affair with Vietnam and a first half penalty shout for the home side in Hanoi that had Rhyan Grant and the rest of Australia suffering elevated heart rates.
Thankfully, that was reconciled in the Socceroos’ favour and Grant became the hero with a headed winner late in the first half.
As such, I’m lost as to what to write about, especially considering the normally precarious position in which the Socceroos have found themselves at the same stage of recent qualifying campaigns.
Team selection for the upcoming October fixtures seems logical for the manager, with the men who have impressed thus far certain to once again play key roles. The squad appears mostly injury-free and after such a strong start to the campaign, there is little reason for the Socceroos to chase any game recklessly, particularly the crucial upcoming matches against Oman and Japan.
Could it be that for once, fans of the Socceroos can sit back, take a breather and actually just enjoy their team humming along and its certain World Cup qualification?
Ah, no. We’ve all been here before.
I’m tempted to do so, now sleeping better at night as the boys head back to club duties after a perfect start. But I also know far better and this ain’t my first rodeo.
Adding to my feelings of unease is West Ham United’s brilliant start to the English Premier League season.
As a 40-year fan of the Irons, I’ve rarely written of them. Mostly because the east London club has bounced haphazardly between the top and second tiers throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, won nothing of note since the Second Division Championship of 1980-81 and has consistently seen the best of its academy talent pinched and poached by more cashed-up English clubs.
In essence, there really was nothing to write about, other than to suggest than one of the oldest and proudest teams in England battled away year after year, whichever league they were in, and always displayed the spirit expected of a club that, well let’s admit it, won the World Cup for England way back in 1966.
However, just as the Socceroos have people believing in them more than has been the case over the last 20 years, West Ham United suddenly look a force.
It is difficult to pinpoint exactly why. Manager David Moyes arrived at the club in late 2017 on a six-month contract, destined to keep the Hammers afloat and in the top flight, after what looked unlikely a few months earlier.
Despite that achievement, a ‘bigger name’ in the form of Manuel Pellegrini was then brought in take the Irons into the ‘big time’. With their shiny new London Stadium used as a rather poor metaphor for the unrealistic expectations and hope being weakly peddled by the club’s owners, Pellegrini failed dismally while at the helm and Moyes returned in December of 2019.
Whilst improvement was slow and Moyes initially did little better than his predecessor, the coming off-season provided the space for his cultural changes to imbed.
Like every other mad-hatted and passionate fan of the Irons, I watched the club return to former glories with a stunning run at the top four during the 2020-21 season; one where an eventual sixth placing saw them return to European competition with a spot in the Europa League.
Moyes current term has produced the highest ever winning percentage (45.45 per cent) for a manager with in excess of 50 games at the helm in the history of West Ham United. Frankly, I’m a little giddy.
Currently second on the EPL table and looking even more impressive than the one just passed. West Ham are once again being talked about as a serious challenger for the top four.
Concurrently, the Socceroos are killing it in Asia and barring a marked drop off in form, highly likely to head to Qatar as one of the AFC’s best.
This is not how things are supposed to be. I’ve been bred and wired to be in an Asian qualifying mess by now and ticking off the points required to somehow keep West Ham in the top flight next season.
Now, I’m in even something more of a quandary; living the impossible West Ham and Socceroos dream and certain the football Gods waiting in the wings are soon to launch the proverbial spanner in the works.