Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Australia out of the World Cup

Earlier this afternoon I joined a few workmates in the Slug & Lettuce bar at Bank (not my favourite UK pub chain but this one's actually pretty good!) to watch Australia take on Italy in its 'final 16' knockout match. A win would have put us though to the quarter finals against Ukraine, and then a chance at a semi-final 'top-four' berth.

I only made it to the game for the 2nd half after finishing things off at work, but from what I saw in replays we had played well enough in the first 45 minutes to hold them to 0-0 despite some excellent play and close shots from Toni and others in the Italian attack.. So we had everything to play for as we seemingly took control in the 2nd half and tried desperately to break their always on-form defence, and the great Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon.

Italian defender Materazzi received a harsh red card for a blocking tackle on Marco Bresciano, and with the blue shirts down to 10 men, we could smell a chance. We dominated the play even more with our marking-up advantage, but couldn't seem to get positioned to take a decent strike on goal, or connect to several excellent crosses into the goal square. A desperately close but miss-timed aerial bicycle-kick by Aloisi at a perfect cross from the right had us agonising over the level scoreline and our inability to get through them; but we were still optimistic that we had a good chance against the tiring oposition in the fast-approaching extra time period.

But it wasn't to be. With less than 20 seconds to go, Italy made one last desperate run up the left side, and a chance was created when Fabio Grosso passed Bresciano before entering the box and approached a sliding tackle by Lucas Neill. Neil went to ground in a legitimate attempt to block the ball, and without even playing at the Italian defender, Grosso 'fell' over Neil's upper body and went to ground with a dive that would have received scores of 8.9 in the 10m platform event at Athens last year.

Grosso & Lucas Neil

The referee blew his whistle and pointed to the spot. This was Italy. We knew it was over.

Totti drilled a perfect penalty kick into the top left corner of the goal, passing a great dive by Schwarzer, and Australia was out of the World Cup.

Schwarzer dives as Totti celebrates - as captured by one of the many remote-controlled SLR's shooting from behind the net at that end. His face says it all.

No-one over here is really whinging about. I think there is more of a sense of pride at the fact that we made the final 16, rather than anger at how we went out.

Even the English guys at work, who it seems had all watched the game wishing us on against the Italians, have been sympathetic this morning to the Aussies in the office with glum faces. Add to that the British media who have taken our side in the papers I spotted this morning. There are of course the usual humorous e-mail attachments doing the rounds this morning, the best of which is below:

I guess we wait until we get do it all over again in 2010.

(Edit: Meanwhile the World Cup continues for some teams who are yet to play their final 16 match - a Ghanain friend of mine from work, Andrew, is currently driving the 376 miles from London to Dortmund, Germany to watch the Ghana v Brazil game this afternoon - now that's committment!)



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