Friday, June 23, 2006 | 12:17 am

What a bloody rollercoaster that was! Down one goal before I even got into my seat at the pub, and then glancing over to see Japan go into the lead against Brazil, I was already working on the nails pretty heavily. But that Socceroos seem to prefer being behind, and they pummeled the Croats for the rest of the half. The net was elusive though until the break we needed came as a handball. I had to sit there wondering if Craig Moore had ever taken a penalty before in his life before he calmly slotted it home.

Second half Croatia kicked back into gear, but we carried all the threat until keeper Kalac had a world class blunder, and our resolve could have faltered there. But it didn't. We got the equalizer we wanted, and then it was 13 minutes of nervous defending and back and forth pressure as I gnawed all the way down to my wrists, and history was made. It really was a great 'fun' game to watch, and to say I was animated and vocal at the pub might be an understatement. Whew - that was quite a draw!

Soccernet carried a great review of the game itself, but here were the moments, good and bad that stood out for me:

  • It's all about the Hiddink. A chat with my mates Dave and Mike after the game highlighted the difference in coaching style between Guus and Arena in the USA's earlier loss to Ghana. Up against the wall at half-time, Arena seemed slow to make his attacking substitutions to help poor lonely McBride. Johnson should have been on at the half. The Aussies had 3 strikers and all our attacking midfielders on by the end. In fact, our defense reflected that for a few panicky minutes.
  • The Kalac choice showed that Guus ain't infallible. But here is a direct quote from Kalac quoted in our leading newspaper "I really didn't have much todo - I've taken a world-class goal, I've taken a shit goal". I admire his bluntness, especially to the press, but he won't start next game.
  • Speaking of saves, it seems Stjepan Tomas wants to be a keeper. He handballed to give us the first goal, and then got away with a more blatant one late in the second half that had me screaming at the big-screen.
  • Hooray for Kewell, cause he missed a sitter earlier, so hopefully this gets his confidence up and he isn't offside next time.
  • Tears of sadness for Brett Emerton. Another great game, but the red card stings horribly.
  • English ref Graeme Poll kind of lost control there at the end. At the end we scored, time had apparently been called so the goal didn't count, and then he sent someone off after the game. Odd. But not as odd as the fact that he managed to give Simunic three yellow cards.
  • We really looked nervous once we got that second goal. Croatia came at us, and between the loss of Emerton and all the attackers we had on, failed to slow the game down and even admirably kept pushing for a third goal. This madness was highlighted by us trying to take a quick free quick and hitting our own player.
  • The World Cup really has captured a large slice of the Aussie and American sporting public this time out, countries where it is a poor-cousin to other local sports. Even been getting coverage on The Daily Show and Colbert Report. John Stewarts comment about Australia qualifying tonight was classic: "Australia is like the drunk us". :)

Bring on The Azzuri! Norton Street may never recover!

Images shamelessly borrowed from The Sydney Morning Herald.


At 23/6/06 8:37 am, Blogger Tom said...

Grrrrr....Arena. You pegged it with the "not attacking."

Congrats though!


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