Australia almost became the first team to qualify for the World Cup Finals. Had Bahrain drawn with Qatar instead of winning 1-0, the Aussies would have been celebrating their second World Cup final in a row. As it stands, they just need one more point from their last three games in the group.
They secured three more points last Wednesday by beating Uzbekistan by two goals to nil. This recent run of form marks an upturn in Australian international football. Previous to their finals appearance in 2006, they went for 32 years without going to the World Cup finals.Image Courtesy of fotopakismo
Football, or soccer as they mistakenly call it, in Australia is still in relative infancy. But it is getting more and more popular. The growth in popularity is in large part due to the introduction of the “Hyundai A-League” in 2005. It is Australia’s “Premier League” equivalent. But with only ten teams in the league and no promotion or relegation issues, there’s still a long way to go. There are no knock out cups here either.
Most of the Australian national team play abroad, some in England.
Fulham have goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, Lucas Neil plays for West Ham and Tim Cahill for Everton. Brett Emerton and Vince Grella are both at Blackburn, whilst Mark Viduka, who has been in the Premier League for some time, is currently with Newcastle. Harry Kewell, possibly their most famous export, is now with Galatasaray.
On Wednesday, only Schwarzer and Neil played from those represented in the Premier League although Kewell was also in the side. So the Socceroos, as they are known, or the Footeroos as they should be known, will have to wait until 6th June for their next chance to secure a place.
But as Australian sports go, football is a way down in the pecking order. I think the most popular sport is Australian Rules Football. In truth, it is almost certainly down to this sport that “soccer” was adopted instead of football, because Australian Rules Football is often referred to as football, footy, Aussie rules or AFL. I haven’t yet got into AFL, but I keep pretending I’ll try.
Of course, the Aussie’s love their rugby and cricket too. I remember I had an Aussie round my house fixing some doors awhile ago, and he said “Did you watch the cricket last night?”. “No” I replied. “I can’t stand cricket.”
“That’s killed that conversation then”. he said. That was followed by a very long silence.
I don’t think I will ever get into cricket, rugby can excite me and I must give AFL a try. But for me you can’t beat proper English football with 11 a side and a round ball. I know I’m in the minority, but very slowly that is changing.
When Australia make the World Cup Finals, that will definitely help the games popularity here. Aussies are an incredibly proud nation, so they’ll be cheering their boys on throughout. Let’s hope they get to play England. In the final!
That’s it! I’d better go, I’m talking gibberish. But I will return to the subject of football. I’ll tell you about the football coverage on TV. More about the A-League. I may even go to a game and let you know what it’s like. Perhaps I’ll sample an AFL game.
But what I won’t do, is call football “soccer”.