It’s now odds
on that Football Federation Australia chief executive John O’Neill’s planning
and public pronouncements aimed at shoring up the Socceroos visiting defences –
including having FIFA play “big brother” to guard against away leg dirty tricks
by host Uruguay, has only made matters worse.

In the past
couple of weeks, O’Neill mindful of not wanting to see history repeated with the
various failures of Australia to cope with the 2001 qualifying away leg
intimidation successfully directed at the Socceroos by Uruguay in Montevideo,
has seen him fall for the xenophobic three-card trick.

In his tough
talking to gain some protection for the Australian players and officials this
time, who he claimed were harassed from the time they arrived in Montevideo four
years ago, he blamed “some pretty unsavoury parts of
the Montevideo football establishment.”
But in taking those concerns public and declaring it won’t be tolerated
again, and even going so far as to contemplate the possibility of the team
walking off the pitch and refusing to play if the team is subject to intolerable
abuse; O’Neill did the Sooceroos few favors.
It’s one thing to telegraph your concerns to FIFA and rightly request as
FIFA has now agreed, to supply its own security expert and official observer to
try and ensure the visiting team is not being unfairly harassed, and that
Uruguay is made accountable for the actions of its fans, but going public was

Already we are
seeing extreme tit for tat politics over the hour of the kick off in Montevideo
on November 12, following our refusal to allow that leg to be brought forward
one day before the teams then fly out to Sydney for the return leg with just
three days rest before the November 16 final qualifying decider. Now Uruguay is taking great offence at FIFA’s
agreement to send its own custodian to observe and possibly act on any abuses
that might befall either team.

The net affect
of all of this public brawling, is the Uruguayan media predictably doing its bit
to fuel national resentment against the provocations of O’Neill. If O’Neill had kept his concerns in-house
with FIFA and not publicly attacked Uruguay or its fans with the kind of
diplomatic bravado that is fraught with the kind of pay-back he now has to deal
with, the Socceroos job would be easier than it’s now become.

What was
already a highly charged and volatile foreign assignment for the Socceroos to
hopefully manufacture a tight away result, before returning to Sydney and
hopefully booking our ticket to Germany
means we are now more than ever on the back foot in Montevideo.