Legends will be made and history will be written at the FIFA World Cup, writes Greg Cary.
FIFA World Cup fever is about to hit and the streets will be filled with the wide-eyed and sleep deprived. But it will be worth every minute.
Australia will again be at the party represented by a new squad, fresh with hope but lacking experience. Two key questions emerge: what realistically are our prospects, and how should coach Ange Postecoglou attempt to maximise results? He has a dilemma.
The Socceroos have drawn the aptly named “group of death” where we will need to finish in the top two to proceed past the first round. The problem being our opponents in that group are Spain, the Netherlands and Chile. Spain is ranked number one, Chile 13, and the Netherlands was a finalist in 2010. It is a daunting and exhilarating opportunity for our boys to confront and embrace.
In that context, however, what should be our aim – to win or to compete well? To do both might be difficult. It is unlikely that we can get through our group but accepting the challenge means scoring a few goals. That will require us to attack, which might then leave our defence exposed to the most brilliant players in the world. It’s a fine line and Ange has serous decisions to make.
A little history might help
When we first played in the World Cup in 1974 it was enough just to be there. Everest conquered. We scored no goals but did manage a draw. In 2006 with different expectations, we made the round of 16 and were a little unlucky against the eventual winners, Italy.
Then, in 2010 – under coach Pim Verbeek – we played defensively against Germany in our first game, lost 4-0 and left our run too late. Pim clearly wanted to limit the damage in game one but the tactics backfired and senior players looked uncomfortable with such a negative plan. This was not the Australian way and you can be assured it will not be Ange’s.
The World Cup has always been the final confirmation of greatness. Legends like Pele, Cruyff, Maradona, Beckenbauer and Platini have left indelible memories. This time will be no different, legends will be made, and others will step up. Generations pass, talent endures.
For thrills on the ground, look out for:
Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, or just Neymar: This 22-year-old Brazilian forward has enjoyed an impressive first season in Cataluna, having signed for Barcelona in the summer of 2013 and his dribbling skills are second to none.
Mario Balotelli: Nicknamed Super Mario, Milan’s Balotelli is a striker to keep an eye on not only for his on-and off-field exploits but for a boot that scores goals with ease.
Mesut Özil: Germany’s Özil debuted in 2009 and is currently dominating the English Premier League with Arsenal. The midfielder is known for his ball control.
Luis Suárez: One of the game’s most prolific goal scorers, 27-year-old Suárez is the all-time leading goal scorer for Uruguay. Signing on big money with Liverpool in 2011, he’s going to be a major threat at the World Cup.
Who will win the FIFA World Cup?
Finding the winner is not easy with teams from Europe and South America considered genuine chances. Ronaldo’s Portugal or Messi’s Argentina might ultimately prevail but Spain, Germany and Brazil will also threaten.
Australia? Tim Cahill, with his usual admirable optimism, says we can create one of sport’s greatest moments. He is correct but not in the way he implies.
We won’t win the World Cup and it is improbable we will advance to the final 16, but we will play the best in the world in the game’s biggest arena. To do so with flair and skill, regardless of whether it brings victory, will realise Tim’s dream and make his nation proud.
Boa sorte — good luck!