World Cup: Welcome to The Big (horror) Show

by Dan O’Sullivan

The Socceroos World Cup campaign thus far has had all the hallmarks of every horror film ever committed to celluloid. The opening match defeat at the hands of Germany was a genuine bloodbath. Little in the way of plot, but a devastating body count. Jason Voorhes could have been leading the line for the Germans with Michael Myers marshalling the back four it was that gruesome.

Luckily I find it hard to recall the finer details of the match due to the winning combination of warm tap beer and sleep deprivation. The onslaught of creative swearing that greeted the fourth German goal is about the only hazy memory that has survived from that night. And those harsh words will now forever ring out every time I see Lucas Podolski on the TV or I eat a schnitzel sandwich.

The Ghana game was more your slow-burn scary flick. The ‘turn the screw’ style of torture that is probably more horrific because it messes with your emotions like the soundtrack to an episode of Find Your Family. We were spirited, we were gutsy, we were creative, we were everything we weren’t against Germany, yet we arrived at the same disturbing result – heartbreaking failure. The Socceroos scriptwriter has either been moonlighting as a creative director on the Scream franchise or he’s just a sadist. I’m thinking it’s probably the latter at this point.

Immediately after the Germany game, the power rankings of public opinion had Pim Verbeek hovering somewhere between Matt Preston’s cravat and the guy that disqualified Jane Saville at the 2000 Olympics. As it stands, he’s probably ranked slightly ahead of Kathy Bates’ character in Misery, although I put that down to the fact that she’s been out of the public eye for a while. A listless Socceroos performance against Serbia would no doubt see him to fall to the murky depths of parking inspectors and the evil bastard that invented the Crazy Frog ringtone.

But that’s not to say it’s all Pim’s fault. Trying to follow Guus Hiddink is like the Blue Man Group attempting to follow Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock.

Hiddink has the rare honour of being able to drink for free across three continents and in three different languages thanks to his work with Australia, South Korea and Holland. That’s not even counting the Russian mafia, who would gladly have him downing shots of pure gasoline just to help them celebrate a Tuesday morning.

The constant bitching about the Socceroos style of play during the qualifying rounds was mystifying. Anyone who understands how difficult it is to get to a World Cup believed Pim was doing what had to be done. So in that sense qualifying was a resounding success. It will only take a couple of years and the swift retirements of Schwarzer, Neill, Moore, Bresciano, Cahill and Kewell before the Australian public gets a true understanding of how hard it is to beat Qatar in 60 degree heat with a guy called Nikita up front.

That said, Pim’s tactical misfire against the Germans was an utter disaster. His decision to change to a foreign formation of 4-4-2 with the likes of Richard Garcia up front smacked of over-coaching. The over-emphasis on tactical formations and personnel can sometimes be all-consuming for an international manager. Instead of over complicating matters, often you just have to put your best and most proven players on the pitch to get a result in big games. Hiddink was guilty of a similar thing in Germany when he decided to drop Schwarzer for Kalac because he believed the Milan back-up was better suited to handle the big Croation forwards. History showed that it was a diabolical decision, and Schwarzer has gone on to cement himself as one of Australia’s greatest ever players while Kalac is busy impersonating a villain from Dick Tracy on the SBS panel.

In other games, Diego Maradona is single-handedly bringing crazy back. It’s amazing this bloke is allowed to roam free from the confines of a mental institution, let alone have control of an international football team. It’s probably good that they don’t drug test managers because his blood sample could get Keef Richards high for three months. My lasting wish for this tournament is for Tevez to score a pearler against the Italians sending Maradona into such raptures that he finally ‘flicks the permenant switch’ and kills Daniel de Rossi with a flurry of blows from a vuvuzuela. Thankfully everyone is so sick of seeing the Italians diving that the referee waves play-on.

That, and the Socceroos beat Serbia 3-0.

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