Tired of World Cup negativity? I know I am
In one of his timeless anectodes, Billy Connolly talks about his early working life at the shipyards. Times were tough, men were men and work was taken seriously. The Glaswegian reminisces about being sent on an errand to the company store and recounts his conversation with the chain-smoking old worker called Tam:
“He started to cough. It was like a storm building up – a thundering storm from miles away. He ended up with these noises that sounded like a platoon of cavalry galloping through a swamp in wellingtons full of vomit. Then it came to an end; all calmed down. I says, “Jesus Tam, that’s some cough”… He says, “Did you pass the graveyard on the way in here?” I says, “Aye”. He says. “Well, the graveyard’s full of people that would love to have my cough”.
Football history is littered with superstars who never made the World Cup. Ryan Giggs is one contemporary legend of the game unlucky enough to be playing for a national team not quite good enough.
In decades past, players no less than Alfredo di Stefano and George Best failed to grace the World Cup with their presence. George Weah didn’t qualify while the talented but fiery Eric Cantona and Bernd Schuster were deemed surplus to requirements. Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey may still have a chance one day, though it appears unlikely.
Closer to home, how about the Socceroo greats who never made the World Cup and would have given their right hand for the opportunity?
Mark Bosnich, Alan Davidson, Alex Tobin, Tony Vidmar, Paul Okon, Ned Zelic, Paul Wade, Robbie Slater, Aurelio Vidmar and Frank Farina are just a few such Socceroo legends. Let us not tarnish their legacy.
Which is why I find the whole “ooh, it’s going to be so hard, we’ll get flogged, why would we bother, let’s just focus on the Asian Cup in 2015” mentality adopted by certain fans and sections of the media to be not only distasteful, defeatist and unhelpful but unappreciative of the opportunity the players have. We must not take a loser mindset into the World Cup.
Is it a tough group? No doubt.
Should the fans and players approach the World Cup with a healthy dose of realism?
But let’s not forget to dream.
For what an opportunity this is for young Aussies to make a name for themselves and write us into the history books. USA did it in 1950 - England losing 1-0 to the Americans 1950 despite the presence of Billy Wright, Tom Finney and Stan Mortensen. North Korea did it in 1966, defeating the highly fancied Italians led by Facchetti, Mazzola and Rivera.
In 1990 in happened again, as the Roger Milla-inspired Cameroon upset world champions Argentina - the opportunity to shine seized upon by yet another up-and-coming continent.
So why NOT us?
The real question is this – what mindset do we take into the World Cup? Will it be a defensive one, aiming at damage minimisation and protecting one’s “dignity” at all cost?
Or will it be “full steam ahead and damn the torpedoes”?
In football, as in politics, the incoming leader has a honeymoon period and a mandate. Ange Postecoglou’s mandate is clearly this:
· To restore the players’ belief in playing for the shirt – if it had ever waned;
· To restore the players’ belief that they can play positive football and still aim to win;
· To restore the fans’ belief in the Socceroos as a reflection of the Australian ethos of “having a go”;
· To juvenate the squad, bringing greater pace, flair and energy into the national setup.
In some respects we are there.
Langerak, Ryan, Williams, Davidson, McGowan, Franjic, Vidosic, Kruse, Rogic, Oar and Leckie are either in the Socceroo first 11 or knocking at the door.
There are timely returns from injury for Chris Herd and Adam Sarota, two young footballers who have it in them to become Green and Gold regulars.
And there is clear intent to play football “the right way” – to pass and move, to press when not in possession and to play sharp, one-touch passes in and around the box.
It will not always come off. But the intent must be there.
To take it to the opposition.
To back ourselves against anyone in the world. This mentality has characterised Australian athletes for over a century – adopt the underdog mindset and play as if your life depends on it, for we have nothing to lose.
Spain, Holland and Chile will see us as a guaranteed three points in the bag.
Great. Bring it on.
As Franklin Delano Roosevelt said at his inauguration speech in 1933, “…the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
We must respect but not fear our opponents, even if Sanchez, van Persie, Robben, Xavi and Iniesta will be lining up against us.
To stay positive and play positive, win, lose or draw.
That’s the Australian way. Anything else is selling ourselves short.
Let’s have a go.
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