It is with a profound
sense of deja vu that Australian sports fans approach this weekend. A
mixture of dread and excruciating anticipation surrounds the massive task
confronting the Socceroos against Uruguay. Too often in the past the
Socceroos have come heartbreakingly unstuck at the final hurdle of
World Cup qualifying.

So here we go
yet again, just two elimination games away from that elusive holy grail of World
Cup qualification, which can elevate soccer in this country in ways that have
the rival domestic football codes shaking with fear.

But in case we
think it’s merely going to be a matter of the best team winning through, we have
to appreciate that from Uruguay’s viewpoint, this is more than a game. To the players and the whole
country of Uruguay, failure is not an option.

And as if to
underline to the Socceroos that, regardless of the war of nerves being fought out
away from the pitch, the real battle
will still be on the pitch, Brazilian and
Real Madrid champion striker Ronaldo has
warned the Socceroos to expect nothing less than intimidation and suspect
tactics on Sunday as they embark on their mission to become the 32nd and
last nation to qualify for Germany.
He told London’s Star newspaper:

South American players, the Argentines and the Uruguayans in particular use more
gamesmanship and always try to provoke their opponents into losing their temper
and getting a red card. These two countries are the
specialists in provocation. When the
ball is up the other end of the field, they kick you from behind, they insult
your mother, they try to provoke you.

Mind you, this
has a familiar ring not exactly alien to some of our own football codes and there was a
time when other soccer countries might have said the same about less sophisticated Australian teams.