On The Spot

Follow PWC columnist Paul Marcuccitti's World Cup diary as he travels around Germany.

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Guus Geluk deploys Super Tim

June 12th, 2006

    When Tim Cahillís fabulous long-range strike gave Australia a 2-1 lead against Japan, I received a text message on the phone Iím borrowing. It was from Planet World Cup colleague Ruud Doevendans and it said, ďThat is why we call him Guus Geluk (Lucky Guus)Ē.

    Maybe Guus Hiddink was lucky; maybe not starting with Tim Cahill and bringing him on as a substitute was a masterstroke. All I know is that I spent most of the opening minutes of the second half screaming for Cahillís introduction.

    Many of our readers would know that the Everton midfielder is my favourite player Ė Iíd never put an Aussie team on the park without him. One of his greatest qualities is his penalty box instinct. He scores a lot of goals like the one that levelled Australiaís match against Japan. Cahill found the back of the net after a scramble near Japanís goal.

    Cahill scored a similar goal in Australiaís recent friendly against the Netherlands in Rotterdam. That was after another scramble that resulted from a Mark Viduka penalty hitting the crossbar.

    Through a glorious night of celebration in Kaiserslautern, thousands of gold-shirted fans sang, ďSuper Timmy CahillĒ. Theyíre probably still doing it now. He scored Australiaís first ever World Cup finals goal and, of course, Australia has just recorded its first ever World Cup finals victory.

    By train, itís nearly two hours from Frankfurt to Kaiserslautern and I needed to change trains at Mannheim. This was where the fun started as a train filled with Australians stopped across from a platform predominantly filled with members of Japanís blue army. Already, fans were singing and posing for photos together.

    From Mannheim, itís a pleasant ride through the scenic Rhine valley to Kaiserslautern. Now Kaiserslautern might be devoid of genuine tourist attractions but the parts that I managed to see are quite attractive Ė itís quite leafy and there are some lovely old buildings. The park around the Fritz Walter Stadion provided much-needed shade while fans walked to the game.

    Kaiserslautern has also made a real effort to entertain fans with its World Cup Mile. It is a few pedestrian-only streets full of tents selling food or merchandise, with two Fan Fest areas showing World Cup action on giant screens. I am really looking forward to returning for the Paraguay v Trinidad & Tobago match.

    I have never seen so many Aussies outside Australia. Before the match, one of the squares in the World Cup mile was full of our fans with music (predominantly by Australian artists) blaring from the speakers.

    It was a hot day, though, and with the bars and cafťs mostly full inside, I decided to go to the stadium early. I had a category 1 ticket today so I knew that I would probably be under cover.

    Itís an interesting stadium. The stands rise to a great height on three sides but the side that houses the large media contingent isnít nearly as high. My seat was high up over what would have been the far touchline for television viewers and I was quite central. Even though it was the best view Iíve had at a World Cup match so far, part of me really wished I was in category 3 in the large section of Australian supporters.

    The Socceroos played well early. Mark Viduka forced a double save out of Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi and Marco Bresciano was also peppering the Japanese goal.

    Nevertheless, it was Japan that went ahead in the 26th minute through Shunsuke Nakamura. There might have been a foul in the penalty area as the ball floated over everyone and into the back of the net but, despite Australian protests, the goal stood.

    Japan was quite defensive in the second half, content to hold its lead and try to catch Australia on the break. The Blues might have added to their lead if their forwards were more clinical. Their pace gave Australia a lot of problems whenever the Socceroos lost possession in attack.

    Tim Cahillís introduction wasnít the only one that lifted Australiaís attack. Josh Kennedy, the surprise selection in the Socceroosí squad, is proving to be an inspired choice. The lanky striker immediately unsettled Japanís defence.

    Well, you donít see many games finish like this one did. Australia, facing defeat, produced a stunning finish with three goals well inside the last ten minutes. Super Tim scored his two beauties (I was actually well placed to see that his second goal would cross the line after the ball hit the inside of the post) and then John Aloisi completed an amazing comeback with another great goal. Japan had a good chance in the middle of Australiaís flurry but Takashi Fukunishi blasted a shot narrowly wide of Mark Schwarzerís goal.

    I never thought I would see Australian fans celebrate more wildly than they did on the night the Socceroos qualified for these World Cup finals. But it happened. We may reach the second round; we may not. But whatever happens, weíll always have 12 June 2006 in Kaiserslautern.

    I canít conclude without mentioning Japanís supporters because I canít speak highly enough of them. They supported their team with great gusto throughout the match and, after the final whistle, they went out of their way to congratulate Australians and wish us well for the rest of the tournament. They even continued to pose for photos and some stayed in town and continued to enjoy the day. (I would have just cried and gone home.)

    After the game, I went into a bar full of Aussie fans who continued to celebrate while watching the Czech Republic Ė USA game. I then joined the big party in the same square the Aussies had congregated in before the match. I missed seeing Italy v Ghana but there will never be another first World Cup finals win and I wanted to enjoy the atmosphere.

    My countrymen were still singing all the way back to Frankfurt. Ben (my room mate) and I certainly arenít the only Aussies staying here.

    Australiaís next match is against Brazil in Munich and thereís only one thing I really want to know before that game. Will Guus Geluk put Super Timmy Cahill in his starting team?


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