Thursday, November 17, 2005

Round two

By the time you read this, you'd have probably known that Australia has qualified for the World Cup 2006. After 32 long years. 1974 was the one and only time thus far. I wasn't even born yet then.

Classic match it was not, even if the
stadium was packed to the rafters with Aussie supporters. In fact, only one team turned up to play. The other turned up to hang onto whatever advantage they've achieved in the first leg.

There was a lot of cynical play on Uruguay's part. Indeed,
Ronaldo (the Brazilian one) had earlier warned Australia of Uruguay's potentially dirty tactics. How true his warning turned out to be as I observed some of these tactics during the match:

i) Repeated testing of the pressure of football(s) by the Uruguayan players at the start of the match, much to the referee's ire.

ii) Frequent fouling to disturb the rhythm of the game. There was even one instance when a Uruguayan player was caught on camera peeping through this hands that he used to cover his face whilst wincing from an apparent injury due to an Australian challenge. He promptly got up to play after the referee brandished the yellow card at the hapless Australian player.

iii) Insinuations by Uruguayan players of Australian players diving and opening asking the referee to book the player.

iv) Even their coach got into the act. He was caught on camera throwing the ball at the back of an Australian player. That got even the commentator livid (he is Aussie afterall).

From a purely football point of view, Uruguay was unlucky to not win the tie. They had quite a number of few clear cut chances but failed to take them. Australia rode their luck a little. Even the goal they scored to level the aggregate score had a touch of luck in it. However, Australia did dominate the match. They just didn't create as many chances as Uruguay. Kewell finally got to play down the left flank and that provided the cutting edge to Australia's attack.

The Qantas chartered flight really did help the Aussie players to recover quicker. In case you've not heard,
Qantas actually had a plane refurbished (with massage facilities and beds) for the Australian team and flew them straight back from Montevideo, Uruguay, after the first leg. No need to switch flights. The Uruguayan team had to make a 20 hour flight with two flight changes. Midway through the second half, the Uruguayan team was already a spent force. And they lost two key players, forward Recoba and defender Monteiro, through fatigue (they were substituted). After that, they were just hanging on to the aggregate draw and praying for the penalty kicks to come in double-quick time.

Which the Aussies won.

So congratulations to Australia, from a very envious Singaporean.

They call football the beautiful game. Not when it is played by a team like Uruguay.

134 days to go.


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