The Muhammad Ali of 1980 was not a pretty sight. Stripping down to face Larry Holmes, the difference couldn’t be more palpable. A boxer in his prime versus a legend beyond even the twilight of his incredible career. What made him do it? Surely not the he money? Multinationals were throwing themselves at “The Greatest” to advertise their wares.

It had to be something else. It had to be an internal drive to prove to himself and the public, not always in his corner, that he still had it in him. One more fight.

The man who had put Liston, Frazier and Foreman on the canvas was a shadow of his former self. As Holmes stated about Ali prior to the fight, “His mind is making a date his body can’t keep”.

Ali “The Greatest” became Ali the human punching bag. It was brutal, it was ugly and it was unnecessary. Like so many others, he stayed too long and paid the price.

It was painful watching Australia take on Canada the other day. Yes we won 3-0 and strung together a few decent passing sequences. We have a long way to go to reinvent ourselves but at least it was the first tentative step out of the darkness.

What hurt me was Lucas Neill. I must confess to something of a man-crush for on the national captain, and not just for the way he looks in an Armani. In my Greatest Socceroo 11, Neill partners Craig Moore at the heart of the defence.

But watching him last Wednesday morning it was clear that Neill’s body is failing at the job at which his mind feels it can still excel. The sharpness, legs and speed are gone.

Neill’s achievements for his country is the stuff of legends. But it is my fervent hope that someone for whom he has the greatest respect puts a polite hand on his shoulder and says “Lucas, it’s time”.  I would hate to see the Socceroo great’s legacy tarnished by his decline.

Don’t ask for whom the bell toll, Lucas. Unfortunately, it tolls for thee.

My segue into the Sydney’s away clash with Brisbane Roar was always going to be Matt McKay. With two international games in four days and a twenty four hour flight home for the midfielder I could only rejoice that he played another full game in Green and Gold before suiting up for the Roar to face the visiting Sydney FC.

McKay is another who should be surplus to national team requirements but his Saturday night performance in the orange shirt was first class. Combining beautifully with Broich, Brattan and Henrique it was like he’d never been away.

What went wrong?

Pretty much everything.

Sydney FC travelled up to Suncorp in search of a miracle and none was forthcoming. Much has been written about hoodoos but that pales into insignificance in comparison to the clear and present chasm in class between the sides.

Brisbane played to a structure – we did not.

Brisbane knew what each teammate was going to do next – we did not.

Brisbane believed they could win the game – we did not.

What concerned me was the attitude Sydney took into the match. Content to sit deep and hit on the break, there appeared to be little belief in our capacity to match it with the Roar. And when we went one and then two goals down, there was no Plan B.

Yes, the home side were superb on the night but they were given freedom by the Sky Blue outfit that stood off Brisbane and allowed them to dictate the game. Like deer mesmerised by the orange lights, Sydney watched rather than played the game and were second to everything.

While the defending was shambolic , the midfield too was found wanting, continually turning over possession and placing the backline under pressure. It was a step back into last season which is something no Sky Blue fan wants to see a repeat of. We were clearly the worst side of the round and by some margin.

It made for painful viewing and - I agree with Andy Harper - the only positive to take from the game was that it is only Round 2 and much can still be fixed.

Farina is right in not blaming ADP’s early shower for the loss – in Del Piero’s half hour on the pitch he had hardly touched the ball. With Sydney rarely crossing the halfway line, Messi couldn’t have pulled us out of the mire. The entire team and coaching staff need to take collective responsibility for the defeat.

I said last week that despite beating the Jets we, the Sydney fans, must not get ahead of ourselves and indulge in premature celebration. We need to take the same measured approach in dealing with the Slaughter at Suncorp. It is only Round 2 and no team should be written off at this early stage of the season.

Right now the table means little but due to a glut of draws we find ourselves clinging to third spot. There is plenty of work ahead of the much-anticipated derby and I know the players will react ferociously to the embarrassing loss.

Del Piero’s potential absence should only spur the Sky Blues on and while he would be a massive loss it offers us the option of pressing higher up the park and closing down the Wanderers’ backline. And three from Chianese, Garcia, Mallia and Yau give us tremendous pace up front, an asset we’ve lacked in recent seasons and something the likes of Beauchamp and Topor-Stanley can struggle with.

It’ll be an incredibly tough match and most likely contain some controversy – what derby doesn’t? – but what is potentially a full house will turn the Sydney Football Stadium into a cauldron. The Wanderers will feel encouraged by our most recent performance but I believe Sydney can turn things around to record a memorable victory.