The World Cup Alphabet – V is for…

Image result for gustavo berocan veiga world cup alphabet

 

…VIDMAR

 

When it came to the Vidmar brothers, Tony was the dour lesser appreciated brother compared to the flamboyant attacking older Aurelio. Aurelio was the bright new hope. Tony a support act.

 

Tony was part of the Adelaide United sides that could go down as one of the greatest domestic sides Australia as ever seen. The fullback won two titles with City playing Socceroos mainstays Alex Tobin and Milan Ivanovic. Three of Australia’s version of Arsenal’s famous back four.

 

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The Vidmar brothers career as a pop duo was not as successful as their careers as Socceroos.

 

A star for the Olyroos, he was part of the new generation of stars coming through joining Bosnich, Okon, Zelic and Viduka. He finally took his career to Europe and Holland. By this time he was a mainstay in Eddie Thompson’s Socceroos sides and was part of the side that took on Argentina at the SFS. At 1-0 down thanks to some magic from Maradona, Tony’s wonderfully worked pass to his brother resulted in the equaliser.

 

A goal made in Adelaide.

 

By 1997 Vidmar had moved to Rangers and was part of one of their last great sides that was strong domestically and in Europe. He would again be part of failed campaign as Australia blew it against Iran in 1997. With his career at an all time high at Rangers winning seven trophies he was at peak form for the Socceroos as well. Against Uruguay, Australia would again fall. Vidmar was photographed leaving the field in tears, a third failed campaign and at 31 wondering if that would be the last time.

 

It wouldn’t.

 

Still playing at a decent level in Europe with his second stint at NEC Breda, Vidmar was relied upon by Guus Hiddink to be a rock at the back for the Socceroos. Many had come to criticise Vidmar by this stage. They thought he was too old and other up and comers could take his spot thinking we had an endless supply of talent. He was back in the line up at the venue he had left an emotional wreck four years previous and played out of his skin.

 

On that wet November night in 2005 against Uruguay in the second leg he was still on the pitch when it came to penalties. At 2-1 in the shootout he would take our third attempt. A player who had been through it all and 35 years of age nailed the penalty. The best of the night. His reaction when scoring like that of a man who had been cleared of a crime he didn’t commit.

 

Tony ‘The Hurricane’ Vidmar.

 

It seemed Tony Vidmar was finally on his way to a World Cup at his fourth attempt. The only player along with Mark Schwarzer from that 1993 campaign. Luck though, deserted him again. Just over a month away from the biggest moment in his career he had to withdraw from the squad. An irregular heartbeat had been picked up during a regulation health check.

 

A blockage in an artery was to blame and surgery was needed. Vidmar would miss the only World Cup he would have been able to play in. An unbelievable blow. He continued on his club career after the operation and played one more time for Australia that also doubled as a farewell game for Zeljko Kalac and Tony Popovic in the afterglow of the historic 2006 campaign that he had help build. 76 caps for Tony in all and he was done.

 

One of the great battlers for the Socceroos over many years and also one of the unluckiest.

 

…VIDUKA

 

One player that did end up at that 2006 World Cup has also had his knockers over the years. ‘Brilliant but Lazy’ was one term. ‘The Enigma’ was another. Fans still wonder whether he did get the most out of what was a very successful career. Sometimes it was like it seemed like he never wanted to be a star footballer.

 

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Mark Viduka was marked as a wonderkid from an early age. The boyish man-child was in a brilliant Melbourne Knights side by the age of 17 and dominating from the get go. Large, quick and with skills normally possesed by those half he size he was a once in a generation player. We had not seen a striker this skilled and powerful in recent memory with 40 goals in 48 appearances.

 

By 18 he was in the Socceroos. At 20 he went to the Olympics in Atlanta. By 22 he was part of the side involved in the Iran disaster at the MCG. Some in the mainstream media criticised him for kissing the Knights’ Croatian badge when he scored. Too ethnic apparently. He brushed it off saying that it got him in the good books with the old boys at the club. Family first for Dukes.

 

At the Knights he also lost some of the professionalism drilled in to him at the AIS. His teammates took the piss out of his special stretching regime so he stopped it. His wishy-washy attitude affecting his fitness more often than not and would end his career earlier than anticipated.

 

While his club career was prolific his international one was not. In between World Cups he was pretty much chased out of Croatia after the Croatian President who had brought him in by visiting his parents in Melbourne’s west waned in the polls. He walked out at one stage on Celtic after only a week ready to quit the game after his Croatian experience.

 

He then ended up at Leeds as a big money signing. At Leeds he showed the world what he could do. The 4-3 win over Liverpool when he scored all four goals his greatest game showing off all his tricks. Following full time he again showed that he was different from the usual chest beating footballer waving to the camera and saying ‘Hi Mum!’.

 

 

Then the 2001 qualifiers came around. Again he didn’t influence on the scoreboard but was still a wonderful target man as Australia bowed out to Uruguay.

 

Viduka continued in the Premier League with Leeds, Boro and then Newcastle but for Australia (when actually playing) he would frustrate. When in Croatia he pulled out of a Socceroos game claiming injury. At the next camp he showed everyone photos of the dynamite fishing he had done on a lake near Zagreb instead of playing in that last game after faking the injury. Players though just said that ‘That’s just Dukes’, knowing he was cut from a different cloth. A vital concession.

 

Guus Hiddink saw the affable big man needed confidence so made him captain of the Socceroos for the campaign to qualify for Germany 2006. He got the best out of Viduka as a target to draw defenders and create space. A role he did brilliantly although the average fan didn’t notice because they thought he was there to score goals and only score goals. No one remembers his little flick led to the equalising goal against Uruguay in Sydney.

 

In the shootout against Uruguay (in which Vidmar above had scored) Viduka would take the fourth penalty. This was after playing 120 brutal minutes against the beast Diego Lugano who had kicked and elbowed him all over the pitch. As captain this penalty would all but confirm Australia would win and what a moment to silence the doubters. Viduka’s penalty was the worst of the night trundling off to the keeper’s right and past the post. It didn’t even worry the keeper. Good thing we won.

 

Image result for Mark Viduka croatia Sydney Morning HErald

The Croatian faction of the 2006 Socceroos. Dukes, Skoko, Covic, Culina, Kalac and Popovic.

 

In the World Cup he again played the role of workhorse again almost scoring against Japan but letting the Cahill’s of this world get the glory. Against Croatia his former AIS collegue and fellow Aussie-Cro Joe Simunic he was smashed physicallybut still played his role drawing a penalty. At the end of the famous game in shear relief he hugged the referee Graham Poll who had not sent off Simunic after giving him two yellow cards.

 

By 2007 Viduka’s international career was done after two goals in the Asian Cup. He never really announced it. He just walked off through the wastelands towards the sunset like an ethnic Mad Max.  By 2009 he was done as a player due to injury and the fact he had nothing left the prove.

 

 

Now Dukes moves in shadows. He stays away from media commitments but then appeared on Santo Sam and Ed as ‘Judge Dukes’. He’ll show up at his kids junior games or on TV half cut during Channel 7’s Melbourne Cup coverage but avoids reunions. He said that his father taught him to be humble and that’s been his first rule his whole life.

 

History will be kind to Dukes. We owe it to him. The irrational greed of fans dictates that once we see a glimpse of potential we demand players perform to that standard. We expect with robotic reliability and the deliver until we say they can stop. Of course it doesn’t really work like that.

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Glory Guerrillas Producer and Co-Host. Contributer to Football Nation Radio and Football West. Worships at the feet of the mighty Cats, Socceroos, Matildas, West Perth, Glory and Glasgow's Green and White most of the time.

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