I
think today’s result has taught me one of the things I don’t like about sport.
Growing up, I always thought that sport was about justice prevailing and that
results would be fair. Following Australian Rules, with its high scoring, meant
that I was used to the side that dominated a contest generally being rewarded
with a win. If they didn’t, it was usually because they had kicked poorly, booting
points instead of goals, so losing was still partly their fault.

Today,
I watched Australia robbed after having the
better of a 90-minute game and it reminded me that sport is not fair. The funny
thing is that I’m sure the purists would argue that such an outcome is why
soccer is known as “the beautiful game”; that there is a romance in the fact
that a second or third division English club can potentially take out a Man
United or Chelsea in the FA Cup with an unlikely 1-0 result.

But
right now, having just returned from the stadium, it stinks. Strangely, the
atmosphere at today’s match didn’t match up to the previous Socceroo games.
There were a lot of empty seats for a start – even if they did announce a
46,000 sell out. The high-price area directly across from the media seats,
adjacent to the play, had many empty seats, although I don’t know if they were
sponsor seats or ones the scalpers were asking too much for.

The
video screen showed Harry Kewell on crutches before the game and that
had an effect on all Australians pre-game, but we rallied to make some
noise once the
action began. My partner, Kate, was behind the goals and next to the
main
Socceroo army and said the atmosphere was great there (until the flood
of tears
at the end), but where I was, the mood was slightly flat. The Italian
fans
didn’t seem to believe throughout, and were quiet, with one Italian
even
standing and urging his fellow fans to make some noise as his team took
a
corner.

As
far as the game went, I was disappointed that the Australians didn’t create
more scoring chances. It’s fine to dominate possession but they didn’t do
enough with it. They ran well along the flanks but there was a strange
reluctance to pass the vital cross in, to try and land the killer blow. Instead
the Socceroos would pass inboard and push the ball around. I think that cost
us.

I
also believe that the Socceroos had firmly decided long before that we were
going to win it in extra time. Once Italy was reduced to 10 men, I think the
plan was to see off full time, then bring on Josh Kennedy and maybe another
striker for extra time. The Australians had been so confident that they were
fitter than the Italians that they would have backed themselves to really run
the Italians off their legs in the 30 minutes of overtime, with lots of fresh
strikepower to finish them off.

The
penalty that wasn’t ended any chance to see if the plan was right.

Peter Fray

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