World Cup 2014 – Australia v The Netherlands: A Step Away from a Green and Golden Day.

Don’t anybody dare tell me Tim Cahill lacks anything, in combatting the heaviest of expectations with the incandescent fire of his belief. Belief in self. Belief in his team. Belief in his country and his coach Ange Postecoglou’s Australian way.

After two ultimately disappointing results, interspersed with momentous reverses of our own making to salt the wounds, the fire we have created with our play has nevertheless been life-giving for Australian Football.

Let there be no doubt. Although our line of intended excellence of execution, is still a dot on the horizon of world-class consistency for us, both of the Socceroos’ matches have proven one thing. Ange Postecoglou’s Australian way has tactically mastered both a South American heavyweight and our former football ‘colonial’ masters.

That has so far, been Ange’s greatest success in his young and refreshing tenure at the helm of our National Team.

Despite the fact we started the way all the ‘Doomsayers’ expected us to, these months of creating a fiery nest of belief, above a firm foundation of tactical acuity, brought us over the top of Chile, with respect to control of the game. We overcame ‘giving’ them two goals, to find our feet, then sink our studs in deep as we went to work.

And while we haven’t reached a stage yet, where such control presages victory, we showed today that we ARE learning. Did everybody see the periods of Dutch dismay we engendered, as our Socceroos dished out a tactical beating – right from the start this time – before individual lapses proved costly enough to cede that hard won superiority? Which in turn led to the moment we immediately snatched it back, and the man who made it so.

At the age of 33. In probably his last World Cup. Tim Cahill scored the goal of his international career.

For the timing.

For the stage.

For the technical texture and the calligraphic beauty of how, he authored such majesty.

Just before that ball left Timmy’s left foot of fury, we had seemingly sunk into a game of ‘Arjen Says’, by ceding our hard won mastery of the moment after twenty minutes, to the clear Dutch expectation of our mistakes. Having been provided with undeniable proof of his team’s expectations, Robben coolly executed his own to give the Dutch an undeserved lead.

A mere one minute later Timmy Cahill was ‘going boldly’ for third base, after judging Ryan McGowan’s early ball in, was more than just an introductory handshake, but a coy invitation to get up close & personal with greatness.

A couple of seconds later, he slid ‘home’, having put his left foot through the ball with the technical precision of an archimedic scholar, and the unrestrained violence of a gypsy brawler on a pub crawl. Off the bar, to bounce up and down into the roof of the net like a horny jackhammer.

Tim Cahill had just scored. And he’d executed the best finish of Brazil 2014 so far, too.

There have been the usual pessimists about Australia’s chances, all the way up to when Brazil 2014 started. They have been interspersed with a generous sprinkling of realists, whose earnest condescension has been hidden by a seemingly benevolent facade.

How sweet it is to be reminded of the opportunity to be entirely unrealistic, utterly fanatical, when you can traverse the conduit created by Tim Cahill’s unquenchable belief. His utter surrender of all that he has to offer, to the moment, without fear or reservation.

Of course that can have a flip-side, which we saw at the end of the half, as Cahill uncompromisingly ran through defender Bruno Martins Indi. In a multi-faceted demonstration of the ‘law of unintended consequences’, Cahill’s fierce closing-down of the Dutchman saw the youngster carried off the field in a brace. Cahill got his second yellow card of the tournament, leading to an automatic one-game suspension.

Ultimately worse than these though, Dutch coach Luis van Gaal was forced to change his formation and introduce winger Memphis Depay. Sometimes even arrogant pedants can be saved from themselves by the confluence of events.

So was the enormously successful, but notoriously volatile Dutchman ‘saved’, as Depay’s introduction became the major catalyst for Australia’s subsequent mistakes. He owned the Dutch left-wing in the second half, and ultimately scored what would be the winning goal – a final ‘gift’ from Matty Ryan, missing an emminently saveable ball.

In between, Australian Captain Mile Jedinak effortlessly mastered his own moment, to give Australia the lead. He converted the penalty cleverly earned by recently introduced substitute, Oliver Bozanic. And going forward, Australia were gobbling up the real estate like Clive Palmer in the Parliament House buffet.

Unfortunately, once more we couldn’t fully materialise our half-chances, just when we were poised to seize control. On the other hand, the Dutch filled our moments of disappointment, with their own execution of expectation. Our mistakes meant that we never could consolidate the opportunities we created, to dig underneath those expectations and shake Dutch belief.

Another near-miss, when we were expected to fail to get within the nearest galaxy of our expected tormentors, in the so-called ‘Group of Death’. Honourable losses is too easy, too pat a term to use for what we have achieved. For the moment, we haven’t achieved anything yet. As I write this, the continuation of Spain’s misery means we are less than ten minutes away from joining them, in official elimination from Brazil 2014.

Unlike the Spaniards though, I know what the future holds for our Socceroos.

I know Tommy Oar can read scoring moments in a match, like a shaman might read bloody-entrails in a sacrificial bowl.

I know Matty Ryan has the inner strength and determination to regroup, reaffirming his status at a point where a weaker, less invested character, might have been looking for a hole in the ground to swallow them up.

I know Australia’s midfield is in good hands with integral prospects like Bozanic, Rogic, Kruse, Halloran filling the Socceroos’ sails as they turn windward.

I know the next step to be taken isn’t over a chasm at all. Thanks to Ange Postecoglou’s guidance and ability to instill a native ethos and belief, I know it will be a matter of when, not if, we take that final consolidating stride into the future.

I think the illustrative epitome of where we stand today is the square ball Tommy Oar, played to Matthew Leckie in the box, after intercepting and breaking down the left, in the second half.

Beautifully judged final ball, followed by an accurate finish that was a step away from being a deadly one. One more step and instead of chesting the ball on the angle, back to an out of position keeper, we’re running through with a diving header, to hit it perpendicular – into the net, at the far post.

One more step Socceroos. Don’t expect to do it and wait for it to happen. Believe you can and move into it … The future that is. I know you can.

Comments

  1. Great stuff Gregor. Better stuff Tim, Ange and the Socceroos.
    File this one under “I’ve seen it but I dooooon’t a believe it.”
    That was breathtaking. After the drudgery of the Rugby League state of origin, this was end to end brilliance and creativity.
    We couldn’t quite hold our nerve but no matter. I thought Chile was a high water mark, but the Socceroos exceeded that by some margin this morning.
    And Chile humbling Spain franks the form. Well played all.
    Matchsticks under the eyes today, but 100% worth it.

  2. Rick Kane says

    Very enjoyable read Gregor, and reasonably balanced (from a Netherlands supporter).

    Loved your description of Cahill’s brilliant goal: “he slid ‘home’, having put his left foot through the ball with the technical precision of an archimedic scholar, and the unrestrained violence of a gypsy brawler on a pub crawl. Off the bar, to bounce up and down into the roof of the net like a horny jackhammer.”

    I think the Aussie are still staring down a long, long road to get even halfway to where the best play. Their mistakes (in front of goal) were critical. And that’s where the game is won.

    But you’re right, they produced periods and moments of play in this tournament that suggest they’re made of the right stuff.

    Cheers

  3. One of the most amazing performances by an Australian team in a World Cup match.

    What a way for Tim Cahill to finish his international career!

  4. kath presdee says

    If this is the impact and belief of our new squad, I’m really looking forward to next year’s Asian Cup.

  5. Dave Brown says

    Great write up Gregor. I have been so frustrated by the braying hatred of the Socceroos that seems to have been the popular groupthink in the lead up to the world cup. What Ange has given us is a competitive team on the world stage. With a pinch of luck and a touch of composure they would still be in the running to get out of this group. Like you I look forward to seeing what is to come.

  6. Gregor Lewis says

    Thanks again for the kind encouragement everybody.

    -Peter, mate, wasn’t it something? We were purring right from the off this time. Still managing to find some potholes, but definitely heading in the right direction.

    -Rick, I appreciate your honesty and I’m super-chuffed to have elicited your involvement. You make some great points regarding our still doubtful demeanour in front of goal. That’s the dichotomy isn’t it? Baby steps towards a goal defined by adult appetites – always a tough path to navigate!

    -Steve, I hope we get to see Tim still in Green & Gold this coming summer for the 2015 Asian Cup. Not that he needs to offer more than he already has … How does one give more, after they have given everything? More, so we can try to say Goodbye & Thank You, with the only trophy of his storied career.

    Like -Kath says, the time is ripe for us to look forward to hosting that tournament.

    It’s also an opportunity to grow further after a lauded Mundial campaign, instead of repeating the hubristic expectations of 2007, which saw us dissolve into the entitled petulance that came to define the Socceroos, under Verbeek & Osieck, after the ‘glory of Gus’ at Germany 2006.

    -Dave, here’s hoping we can continue to grow together, because where we were complacent in 2007, petulant in 2010, we have the pressure of the opportunity to feed the hunger of the expectant masses, as the Home Team, this summer.

    Brazil seems to be folding right now. Our boys have the chance to learn from that , making sure we keep growing, into realising our own home fans’ expectations next year.

    Relish the prospect as it approaches and revel in the moment when it arrives.

    The first step towards that is to keep on trucking, despite being officially eliminated from Brazil 2014, now.

    Lets try to put Spain out of their misery, instead of baring our necks as consolation prizes.

    grl

  7. First half was probably the best I’ve seen Australia play. Onya Gregor.

  8. Bleu Mathieu says

    What a great article, Gregor, and what a great effort by our boys, especially Cahill’s brilliant goal! We had the better of the game but the Dutch just needed those brief moments to seize their opportunities.

  9. Luke Reynolds says

    Great stuff Gregor. So proud of the Socceroos. So very tired today….

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