Mike Gibbons is an aspiring young journalist
from the UK who has followed the World Cup with passion from an early age. He will share his views about the past, present and future of
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Bigmouth Strikes Again
Australia contributed hugely to the 2006 World Cup. When they were one-nil behind to Japan in their opening match it did look as if perhaps the stage could be too big for them, but in true never-say-die style they blindsided Japan with a three goal blitz in the last eight minutes to resurrect their tournament. They then frightened the life out of Brazil in Munich, only going down 0-2 through a last minute goal having created but agonisingly missed some great chances in the second half. In their final group game they profited from another late goal to snatch a 2-2 draw with Croatia to make the second round.
And at this point the dream collapsed. Up against champions to be Italy they failed to make the most of a man advantage for nearly the entire second half and succumbed to a controversial injury time penalty from Francesco Totti. Despite the majority of possession and the tactical acumen of Guus Hiddink the Australians failed to make the most of such a golden opportunity and the Italians, to whom triumph in adversity is second nature, advanced, it must be said, quite comfortably. It was the 2006 World Cup in microcosm – the major nation, by hook or crook, eliminates the minnow.
Now I understand our friends Down Under had and still have an axe to grind about the award of the penalty –Paul Marcuccitti, this website’s Australian columnist who was in Germany this summer, branded it ridiculous. That’s fine; we all have different opinions on these things and through the eyes of a fan something that seems as clear as day would pass a neutral by. For what it’s worth, I think it was a penalty – Grosso cuts inside Lucas Neill, who in sliding in at the ball leaves his prone body in the path of the Italian. There is contact, certainly enough to impede Grosso reaching the ball and he goes over. You can say he bought it, played for it, whatever you like, but Neill missed the ball when sliding in and if you do that in the penalty area you are in trouble. That’s just my opinion anyway.
It may interest you to know that someone else has an opinion on this as well – Sepp Blatter, the crafty old septuagenarian who runs FIFA. So what does the supposedly impartial president of our great game think about that match? To quote the man himself -
‘I would like to apologise to our football fans in Australia, the Socceroos should have gone into the quarter-finals in place of Italy. They were up to beat Italy ... you go into extra time and you are 11 against 10.’
You may have thought that during his tenure at the helm of the world governing body of football old Sepp would have run out of mouths to put his feet in. Wrong. Apologising to an ENTIRE nation of fans because of the result of a football match? Is he setting a precedent? He always seems to put the boot into England when it suits him so I heartily look forward to his full and frank apology for Maradona’s Hand of God goal in 1986.
You won’t be surprised to learn that when Blatter made this announcement he was in (drum roll)… Australia. Shamelessly cozying up to anyone who he thinks might vote for him at the next FIFA election as usual, this buffoon provides yet more ammunition to those who claim he has no interest in football and merely lusts after the power and trappings that come with being the head of FIFA. Like any politician he tailors his speeches to curry favour with his audience. Ich bin eine Australian anyone? Thankfully John O’Neill, the chief executive of Football Federation Australia, could see through this flattery to state that these comments are months after the event and in any case can’t affect the result.
I do wonder if Blatter even saw the game. If he is so keen to point out supposed wrongs from the 2006 Mundiale and restore moral order to the universe, why has he not mentioned that the red card to Marco Materazzi that tipped the numerical advantage in the Aussie’s favour was a yellow at best and utterly ludicrous? Why not go back in time by one match and highlight the fact that Harry Kewell’s equaliser against Croatia was offside, so maybe they were damn lucky to be in the second round anyway? He won’t, because he isn’t in Italy or Croatia this week, so he won’t need their votes…yet.
On these goodwill tours he resembles a confused little kid who’ll say anything to get the others to like him. And kids, as with presidents of FIFA, should be seen and not heard.
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