24 Horrible Hours

What started out with so much hope and promise became the worst 24 hours of sport in years. Fresh from the wonderful Wild Boars rescue, riding the wave of Youtube “It’s Coming Home” videos, and buoyed by the Cats’ against-the-odds victory at the SCG last week I was feeling good about the world (of sport).

 

Where did it all go wrong? The trouble started at Wimbledon. Inexplicably bumped from centre court, the GOAT, Roger Federer seemed unphased against South African Kevin Anderson, strolling to a two set lead and a match point. One point away from the semi-final, two wins away from his 9th singles title, I was very confident.

 

Then something changed, Anderson held serve and not long after broke Roger’s serve and took the third set. No panic, just a hiccup. Anderson however was reading a different script and his serve began zooming past the master as the ace count rose. Fed’s forehand was off the boil, 4th set to Anderson.

 

That’s OK, Roger’s record in 5 setters is excellent, he’ll settle and get the job done. But he didn’t! Had Roger upset the sports karma equilibrium at the press conference the day before when dismissing the World Cup Final-Wimbledon Men’s Final clash? Maybe. Even with the advantage of serving first he just couldn’t get the vital break and the game score kept rising. Eventually the unthinkable happened, Anderson broke Fed’s serve and then served it out, winning the 5th set 13-11. I had intended to go to bed but just couldn’t drag myself away from the drama.

 

It was 2:00 AM. No point going to bed now, England’s World Cup semi-final against Croatia started at 4:00 AM.

 

It is relevant that I have been an English soccer tragic for over 40 years, that Tottenham Hotspur hold a very special place in my heart, and that in 1982 I was in Spain for the World Cup. I went to all of England’s games, ran with the bulls at Pamplona, and scored a ticket to the Final, to watch Italy defeat West Germany.

 

So I was well invested in England’s game against Croatia, especially with captain Harry Kane and Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Danny Rose and tournament revelation Kieran Trippier all being Spurs players.

 

The early exits of favourites Germany, Argentina and Spain cleared a path to the final for the Poms.  They then broke their penalty-shootout curse against Colombia and had a solid win against Sweden in the quarter-final. The stars were aligning surely.

 

The whole of England was believing in the unlikely dream and singing “Football’s coming home”. The game could not have started more perfectly with Trippier’s brilliant free-kick giving England the lead in the first ten minutes. For the next hour they held the lead but the shape of the game was changing, Croatia were exerting unrelenting pressure, England couldn’t retain possession and goalie Jordan Pickford was the only one keeping them in front.

 

Then, finally Croatia seized on a defensive lapse and equalised. This seemed to spark the Three Lions back into action and they had a number of chances but couldn’t convert.

 

Extra-time.

 

I was becoming very nervous, my legs were shaking, not just from the cold! Just as I was thinking it was going to go to penalties my worst fears were realised, Croatia scored again.

 

 

Effort remained but hope was gone; another chapter was about to be added to England’s tragic (football) history. Final whistle and tiny Croatia had done it, they would play France in the World Cup Final. Credit to them but I was crushed. So close to glory then suddenly the dream was over, football’s not coming home after all.

 

To bed at 7:00 AM. (In case you’re wondering, I was on uni break this week).

 

I’m not superstitious but the last thought I had before sleep was things happen in threes.

 

And so it proved. Geelong played the Crows at Adelaide Oval that night. Despite the terrible kicking at goal, last week’s win against the Swans gave me hope. And just like Roger and England, the Cats got off to a good start. Tom Hawkins had an easy shot from 20 metres out that would have given us a 3 goal lead, but last week’s ghosts came a-haunting, he missed and Adelaide proceeded to kick the next 6 goals and set the trend for the night.

 

Walker’s crude hit on Zach Tuohy shook him badly and our warrior skipper also went down behind play. The normally tight backline were leaking. Clangers and turnovers were costing us big time (yes I’m talking about you Cam Guthrie). Dropped marks, (ahem, Daniel Menzel, Wylie Buzza), missed targets, loose tackles and a few players struggling meant that the Cats just couldn’t drag themselves back. Rory Sloane’s signature moves were paying off for Adelaide and not even Danger’s heroics or Hawk’s goals were enough. Final siren, Crows win, Cats lose their third game from the last four and our finals position is looking shaky.

 

Roger gone. Cats down. England out.

 

I’ve had a shocker!

Comments

  1. george smith says:

    There’s a cartoon in the Guardian showing a world cup soccer ball considering going home, then seeing what was going on at home, and deciding to stay in Paris…

    “frustrate their knavish tricks”

    Well, little Croatia was one knavish trick too many!

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