Top 100 World Cup Moments (From the Aussie P.O.V.): 14-The Socceroos Push Brazil All The Way (2006)

Australian Socceroo Harry Kewell battles for the ball with Brazil's Robinho at the 2006 World Cup.

Following their amazing (and albeit lucky) come back against Japan the Socceroos fans were almost glad to have 5 days to either go back to work if back in Australia and daydream or, if in Germany, spend the time taking the simply stunning South West region of Germany. Some stayed in Ohringen, the town in which the Australian side was based and watched a public training session in the summer sun where they were kept and arms length along with the shirty Australian press who were still shitted off by Hiddink’s media ban for all players (yet Ray Martin was allegedly allowed near the players for a 60 Minutes fluff piece).

Some did that to perhaps avoid thinking about who Australia had to play next, the World Champions Brazil. Brazil was at almost unbackable odds to make it a sixth cup and back to back titles coming in to Germany under their 1994 winning coach Alberto Parreria. Riots had kicked off before the World Cup in some gaols with notorious gangsters kicking off over the fact they wanted plasma TVs in the gaol to watch the games on. The side was almost capsizing with talent with Ronaldinho fresh from his Champions League glory with Barcelona, Ronaldo tipping the scales but still knocking them in for both club and country and Kaka who was a pup in the 2002 side but had developed in to the one of the World’s top midfielders.

The Brazilians also had some problems too. Both full backs Cafu and Roberto Carlos were well in to their 30s now and were showing signs of age and ego to stay in the side. Ego was a problem all through the side and had been through Brazil’s last 20 years in what has been called ‘Oba Oba’. Basically the better the squad the more ‘oba oba’ there was. Brazil sometimes believed their own hype and didn’t concentrate on the here and now. Any tournament Brazil and gone in to with massive momentum saw them normally bomb out in some capacity. In 1966, 1982 and 1986 they were all tipped to easily win but went home floundering.

In the lead up to this World Cup the Nike/CBF marketing machine had, instead of playing friendlies, had training sessions in Switzerland where they charged some 15 euros for people to sit in the stands and watch them do track work. They also decided to do away with the tradition of two a room with the stars demanding their own rooms. Then there were the stories of Ronaldo and his heir apparent Adriano who were found to be nightclubbing in the early hours when in training for this tournament. They had won their first match against Croatia in Berlin unconvincingly 1-0 thanks to Kaka but Hiddink sensed Brazil were lazy, plump and ready for the taking. He prepared the Socceroos as best he could in his boot camp.

After being scattered around Germany and neighboring countries still swimming in the delight of that afternoon in Kaiserslautern against Japan the Australian fans descended on Munich for the match. Even ‘The Footy Show’, a bastion for all that’s oafish and ignorant towards the World Game had a show at a venue in Munich the day of the match. Australians were scattered around the great Bavarian city eating pork knuckles in the Englischer Garten park or taking in the beer halls (of course). They could scarcely believe they were there to watch Australia in the World Cup.

The match would be played at the quite brilliant Allianz Arena, a stadium that had replaced the old Olympic Stadium and was on the outskirts of town looking like a mammoth inflatable boat or goon bag with its modern design and bed sheet like covering. The train took thousands out to the stadium, the station awash with green and gold for both sides and buzzing. Santo Cilauro was there musing about whether to take a flight to go see Italy before the next Australia game. ABC journalists are crammed on a carraige next to former NSL club owners talking about their old slanging matches at press conferences. And then there’s the hopeless souls looking for a ticket.

Hiddink had made some changes for the match with Cahill replacing Kewell and Sterjovski replacing Bresciano in the starting line up with Luke Wilkshire, the young surprise starter in the first match, also dropped to make way for Tony Popovic in what was a more defensive set up. The atmosphere inside the stadium was electric with the team running out for their warm up to the booming sounds of AC/DC’s TNT (long before the Dockers) and everything from beach balls to inflatable dolls and kangaroos flying around in the carnival atmosphere. This Australia V Brazil….IN A WORLD CUP MATCH. Australians could still scarcely believe they were there.

From the start of the game jeers from the Australian crowd were aimed at a clearly overweight and unconditioned Ronaldo as he huffed and puffed his way around the pitch trying to keep up with the pace of his countrymen. “One fat Ronaldo” the song of choice. He soon reminded these mockers of his immeasurable talent and megastar status after only 3 minutes when Grella switched off for a microsecond and let a ball bounce rather than clear it. Ronaldo got to the ball first and then brilliantly flicked over for Kaka to shoot inches wide. The first shot fired across the bow of the Socceroos. It didn’t help Ronaldo when Vince Grella managed to almost kick his ankle off when both were going for a 50-50 ball after 10 minutes. The resulting free kick from the always dangerous Roberto Carlos deflected just over the cross bar. Australia was well drilled and let Brazil have possession but didn’t let Brazil do anything with it. Cafu and Roberto Carlos were boxed in by Sterjovski and Culina and the times Ronaldinho did get off the leash Neill and Moore were an immovable object stripping him of the ball time after time. Australia got the odd free kick or corner when venturing forward, they all came to nothing.

Ronaldo was jeered as the first half went on and completed fluffed his lines when a lovely pass should’ve been tapped in but his couldn’t get his foot up to the ball. 4 years ago it would’ve been in the back of the net. He was then booked for kicking the ball away after an offside was given against him. The mocking Australians in the stands were having a grand old time partaking in the great Australian sporting pastime: Sledging. With minutes to go before half time Popovic was turned inside out by a Brazilian attacker and managed to twist his ankle and would play no further part in the game. Hiddink rolled the dice and decided to take a more attacking approach with Brazil tiring and brought on Bresciano. It almost paid off instantly when the substitute received the ball on the edge of the area after some fantastic passing and shot just over. Australia were 0-0 with the World Champions at half time.

Australia were playing with confidence as Brazil seemed to unravel leading up to half time but that changed just minutes in to the second half when Brazil went ahead with Ronaldo (who else) managing to bamboozle Neill with two stepovers and then squaring a ball to Adriano who took one step past Chipperfield and finished easily. The crowd urged the Aussies on though and they were not out of the game by any stretch of the imagination. The game breathed in to life with end to end football for the next ten minutes with both larger gentlemen Ronaldo and Viduka being put through on goal only for the offside to be blown.

On 55 minutes Neill fluffed a clearance but Emerson can’t get to it first and Australia break up to the other end with a neat pass from Viduka flicked on by Sterjovski to Bresciano. The #23 sprinted in to the area with the massive crowd urging him on but couldn’t pull the trigger under pressure and fell over in a heap in the box through his own clumsiness more than anything. Hiddink decided to make a change and brought on Kewell for the ineffectual Cahill and immediately gave Australia two of their biggest chances of the game which they would rue up until this day.

First an innocuous cross was collected by the goalkeeper Dida who managed to drop the ball under pressure. The loose ball fell to Kewell who had a nanosecond to get foot to ball and get it in to the unguarded net but his rushed shot went over the crossbar. A blink and you missed it moment and one that didn’t sink in until well after the match. Australians from Munich to Thornbury groaned. Then minutes later Kewell was put through on goal down the left by Viduka, the pace of his electrifying pre injury years at Leeds United back just for one afternoon. Kewell got to the edge of area and tried to lob Dida rather than go in to the area and take the better option of sliding it past the keeper. Another chance. How many can Brazil give you in a World Cup.

As the half went on Australia were relentless with Bresciano running the show in the midfield and Ze Roberto the only Brazilian showing anything in return. Aloisi came on for the defender Craig Moore, Hiddink now wanted to throw everything at Brazil who are floundering under the pressure Australia were putting on them. Ronaldo had had enough and he was substituted for the fleet footed Robinho to the jeers and whistles of the Aussies in the crowd pumped up with a mixture of pride, adrenalin and lukewarm Budweiser in plastic cups.

Australia tried to look for a way through to equalise with Brazil hunkering down but still dangerous on the break. With 10 minutes to go a hopeful cross by Sterjovski was headed down by Aloisi to Bresciano who athletically did an overhead kick that was brilliant saved by Dida and went a mere millimeter wide. Brazil broke from the resulting corner and won their own corner with Kaka hitting the crossbar after it was taken. The Brazilians now found voice while the Socceroos refused to bow to the alleged masters. The Allianz Arena was a mix of 62,500 desperate voices all yelling at once in 62,500 different octaves.

Then at the other end Australia won a free kick. The kick was taken by Bresciano and flicked on by Viduka who saw the ball (again) saved at the last second by Dida. Brazil was barely hanging on. The Australians still came at them. Aloisi again headed a hopeful cross down and this time Viduka got to the ball and lobbed it past the onrushing Dida but the ball feel on the roof of the net just an inch from going in. Australians had their heads in their hands and started to deflate knowing that was another golden opportunity gone. The player’s heads dropped. Brazil sensed this and started to get on top again with Gilberto Silva substituted on to help the excellent Ze Roberto in the midfield.

Fred came on for Adriano. Some Aussies still believed and thought of the Japan game. Brazil thought otherwise and got a barely deserved second goal to finish off their opponents. With a minute to go Ronaldinho started a move to that ended up with Robinho having a shot from the edge of the area that cannoned off the upright and in to the path of Fred who tapped it in easily. What Brazilians were in the stands celebrated more the relief of the goal more than anything else. Australians were shattered. 2-0 was the end result.

As the Socceroos faithful piled out of the stadium and back to the train station they were disappointed but proud. Hoarse but still full of enough voice to remind what Brazilians there were at the game about the girth of their star striker. They had taken the alleged greatest collection of players in one team for a World Cup ever to the wall and deserved at least a draw from the result. Many went back to the city centre and drank to the amazing effort of the team while working out the maths of what it would take to get in to the final round. This was a night to celebrate what would be the most honourable loss the Socceroos would ever have.

But there was still that final game in Stuttgart in 3 days time to come. There was still Croatia. There was still time for even more drama.

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.

Comments

  1. Dennis

    Loving these and congratulations on the incredible research and work that’s gone into them.

    I think I am more excited about the countdown to your top moment than I am about the actual World Cup.

    Looking forward to the final few and the top 10/5 etc.

    Well done on an epic series of articles

    Sean

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