The 2014 World Cup Draw…calm down Australians!

I’ve always found the World Cup draws to be a bit like Eurovision. Your TV screens are showing a ceremony in a far-flung country with the current flavor of the month celebrities trotted out to host the event with sweeping interludes or local delights and wonders with the odd cultural cringe.

Watching it on Friday night you knew Australia were going to be in a world of pain regardless of who they got. Some of us hoped to get an alleged easy beat like Switzerland, some wanted Argentina, some Brazil and most of us to get England in a ‘well if we go down we take them with us’ kind of attitude. When we were drawn in Group B our hearts sunk. The people I was surrounded by all almost said in at the same time in some Kevin Bloody Wilson meets barbershop quartet harmony that ‘we were f*cked’. No game in Rio, none in Sao Paulo, none in the steaming amazon. Disappointing.

No World Cup has ever had the champions and runners up from the previous tournament in the same group. That’s harsh. You also have Chile who haven’t been as prolific up front as they did in the 2010 qualifying campaign but another one who could take us to the cleaners so the first priority for Ange will be to fix the defence which is probably the hardest thing to fix in the side and the most controversial thanks to one L. Neill. These three sides are some of the finest advertisers of the modern game.

Ange is to the Socceroos what Kevin Rudd was to the ALP earlier this year. He was brought in to save the furniture and limit the damage and that’s what he will mainly do. The reactions to this draw have been interesting. Many are complaining about groups like C and H which do not feature any of the traditional big guns.  That comes across as bitter for mine and not grasping what the World Cup is about for a side such as ours.

We’re in a tough group but we’re playing the best of the best and should cherish this opportunity rather than go all Chicken Little and think that the sky is falling. Yes, being thrashed like we were in the opening game in 2010 in more than one game this time around wouldn’t be good for the momentum of the sport in this country but Australia against Robben, against Xavi, against Sanchez is a fine advertisement for the game.  It is a positive rather than one of the many negatives people are panicking about since early Saturday morning.

There is also no pressure on the side. Are we expected go through? Were we in the first place? African, Asian and CONCACAF teams have shown time and time again what they can do with next to nothing and escape tough groups. That’s what makes some of the magic of the World Cup. People also lose sight of the fact that now in to our third straight World Cup which is a wonderful achievement. What’s also important apart from saving face in this ‘Group of Death’ is developing the team for the 2015 Asian Cup in just over a years’ time which will be in our own country and a chance to build on a strong base which the FFA has created since it rose from the corrupt smoldering ashes of Soccer Australia.

The Socceroos are facing quite possibly their biggest ever challenge on the World stage. More than their time in 1974 when travelling in to the unknown as first time participants, more than in the knockout stages against Italy in 2006 and more than their first foray in to the Asian region. This should be an excellent chance to rise to the challenge as Australian sides have been known to do and rise above the negativity that sometimes plagues the side and the sport in general in this country.

In the other groups Brazil didn’t really get their own way in GROUP A. They face Croatia who have a young and exciting side just like Belgium but without the plaudits and ‘football hipsters’ worshipping their every move. The struggling Mexicans are also in that group and would want to have turned it around before June. Cameroon are the unknown in this one with their dominant qualification but the side is getting on.

In GROUP C the Ivory Coast have finally been rewarded with some luck after being drawn with established giants in their past two world cups. They’ll fancy their chances this time around with probably one of the softer seeds in Colombia also in the group along with Greece and Japan with the latter an unknown quantity this time around. The Japanese have developed a strong system reliant on younger players since 2010 and it will be interesting to see if this gives them success on the biggest stage.

In GROUP D the blow for Australians was softened when England drew a very hard group. With Roy Hodgson’s men will be semi finalists Uruguay and European runners up and former champions Italy along with Costa Rica who, despite showing nothing against Australia, did very well to finish second in CONCACAF. Not impossible for England with the two other big countries in the group a little reliant on veterans in the spines of their teams like Pirlo for Italy and the Two Diegos (Forlan and Lugano) for Uruguay. Both sides are also reliant on strikers (Ballotelli for Italy and Suarez for Uruguay) who can at times show the temperament and calmness of Travis Bickle. If Suarez is unpopular in England now I can only imagine how he’ll go now if he scores against England.

In GROUP E another ‘soft seed’ in Switzerland is lumped with international football’s answer to 1990s Geelong who is France. France have a brilliant side on paper but egos and attitudes that rival a Grammys ceremony. Ecuador are also in this group and did well in qualifying which ads to the intrigue of this group. Honduras, the surprise packet of CONCACAF who broke the Mexicans makes up the group and will probably take a scalp down with them…probably the French knowing them.

In GROUP F one Argentinean journalist quipped whether this was a football group or a NATO mission when they were drawn against Bosnia, Iran and Nigeria. Argentina will clearly be favourites with FIFA making sure that they wouldn’t face Brazil until the final if they both topped their respective groups. Bosnia just made it above Greece to qualify and may be overawed in their first tournament that they have deserved for so long. Iran and Nigeria also both snuck in in the end so a blanket can be thrown over all three to see who goes through with the South Americans.

In GROUP G there’s another supposed ‘Group of Death’ with the Germans in with Jurgen Klinsmann’s USA, 2010 quarter finalist Ghana and Christiano Ronaldo’s Portugal. People would see the two Europeans as getting through but the US and Ghana both showed in 2010 that they can rise above much better opponents. This should be Landon Donavon’s last tournament after many years of service.

The final group (GROUP H) is probably the softest. Belgium have been lauded as the best thing for a few years now with the side now not at each other’s throats as much as they used to be. Algeria are back again with their style of football that makes Ross Lyon’s AFL sides look like goal scoring extravaganza. Russia have an older team but one that can qualified through a tough group and South Korea have almost been forgotten about in recent times due to Japan’s success (which a lot of was copied from the South Korean model) but made the last 16 in 2010 and will again have a decent time.

The draw is done, the tickets booked, the venues kind of finished. A lot can happen to sides in the in the meantime but June is all but around the corner and I cannot bloody wait.

About Dennis Gedling

Cats supporter by pain of death.


  1. Dennis Gedling says

    Hmmm. Can I just point out I wrote this. Not sure why it came up with Father Brian Eno. I’m not even bald or a priest.

  2. So you are not the real Father Brian Eno who appeared (briefly) in an episode of Father Ted?

  3. Thoughtful piece, even if it comes up under something which is not your pseudonym. Remember 1965 when Australia thought they would have a stroll in the park against North Korea and then take on the world in England. As it was the team came up against one which had played together for a couple of years, while the Aussies took on Ingham near Cairns. After two shellackings the Australians played several games to defray the cost of the trip to Phnom Penh. Then we wakened up to the notion of playing your warm-up and acclimatisation games before the real ones! North Korea went on to knock out Italy in its group and lead Portugal by three goals before Eusebio and his mates hit their straps. Nearly every World Cup since has had bolters (why does your predictive spelling keep suggesting blotters?) and there is no reason why the Socceroos cannot do better than the goal-less draw against Chile in 1974, which would be a useful start, especially as both Spain and Holland cannot win the other game. An enraged Chile might do us a favour and a draw in the final game might be enough as it was in Stuttgart. To quote the Ricky Fulton character in Comfort and Joy, ‘Dream Large’.

  4. Dennis Gedling says

    Thanks for the feedback. I actually wrote about the North Korea team from 1966 before the last World Cup which I might chuck up on the Almanac. They were all army trainees so we were on an ignorant hiding to nothing. They also formed a fantastic bond with the people of Middlesborough too.

    What worries me if we talk about the freakish chance of Australia getting through is the second game against Holland. They may well have been beaten by Spain and will be angry to atone in the second game against us. The other three sides kind of being evenly matched may be to our advantage. Onward and upward!

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