Around 36,000 fans turned up last night to ANZ Stadium to see Australia put Oman to the sword and virtually seal their place in the World Cup Finals in Brazil next year.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Instead a rather skilful Oman team took their few chances, saw the bounce of the ball go their way … and suddenly those seats on the plane are looking a lot less secure for the Socceroos. Time again to fasten your seat-belts, Australia.

As enthusiastic as the crowd was last night, it was a far cry from the roll-up to the sudden-death playoff against Uruguay to win our place in the 2006 Finals, when it was standing room only at the same venue (and one of the most orgasmic moments in Australian sporting history). Last night more than half the seats were empty – suggesting, perhaps, the sense of entitlement Australian football fans have cultivated after successive showings in the Big Show. With so many football codes to support in this country – and now, ironically, a thriving A League largely sating local appetites for the round ball game – we Australians appear to be a bit blasé about this whole World Cup thing. We now appear to expect these Asian rivals to roll over so our boys can tickle their tummies as they breeze to the biggest show on Earth.

Rest assured the players don’t regard their opponents this way – at least we hope they don’t! What we have now in front of us are three crucial matches – away to Japan (June 4), then home to little old Jordan (Melbourne, June 11), followed a week later by that footballing minnow Iraq (Sydney, June 18). But these are no less crucial than the match we fumbled last night (2-2, after being down 2-blot).

Inside Sport was staggered how few of our friends even knew the match was on in Sydney last night, and how little pre-match coverage the game received in the media, given its importance. So if you haven’t already done so, team, log those dates in your diary and prepare to strap yourselves in. Our lads have got a lot of work to do yet . . . And nothing in any of the other three football codes in this country – and we mean nothing – compares to the tension created when soccer is played at this level for these high stakes. Not to be missed.