Brazil 2014 World Cup Review

20 July 2014

Brazil came to the party and delivered a spectacular World Cup. It will be remembered for the exhilarating football, especially during the group phase, the people, Brazil itself and the meltdown of the Brazilian national team. Despite many accolades of a new found Germany that took the game to a new level, they will be mostly remembered as being the most polished and cohesive team of an entirely pragmatic bunch.

Pragmatism continued as a theme for the World Cup itself. Everything worked as expected. People could get around to the venues easily. No real crowd troubles. No real security lapses. No real concerns with referees. No crazy interventions by FIFA. No controversies. That’s the mark of success and, with the quality of games and football and a deserving winner, that made it one of the great World Cups. Not the greatest. One of the greatest. More on that later.

Germany

Germany’s win is still a bit perplexing. They weren’t heavily spruiked before the tournament, they remained inconspicuous throughout, and simply did enough in the final to win. If not for that 7-1 over Brazil in the semi final, the rapture over Germany’s success would be much lower. After brushing aside Portugal in the first group game, they relatively struggled against Ghana, USA, Algeria and France. Even Argentina had enough chances to win the final, and then we’re finding ways to laud another team.

It takes a moment to ponder all the other teams and realise that there was no clear stand-out. Factor in the recent form of German club football, especially having six Bayern Munich players in a starting team, then Germany begins to make sense. That still doesn’t make them exciting, nor that they delivered an exciting new brand of football that will set a trend for the world.

It seems that much of the elite football commentary are desperate to ascribe something special to Germany just so that it took something special to lift THEIR World Cup, rather than some less inspiring and perfunctory unit. The significant ground that Germany made and that the saw the heaviest investment was in talent and player development, of which there’s no dispute they had all round the most talented team on the pitch, and with plenty in reserve sitting on the bench. To describe the essence of Germany in this World Cup: clinical, professional and accomplished.

Brazil

No surprise that Brazil wouldn’t cope with the pressure in the semi final. The surprise is the magnitude of the capitulation. They were a total debacle and probably did themselves a favour. Brazil’s real problem – evident for some time now – is it needs an attitude adjustment. No team has a divine right to win. Even though this Brazilian team was quite poor in comparison to others, the lesson to learn is to get used to losing. All other nations go through phases of their national team being poor. It’s part of the journey that makes sport so intriguing.

It’s not always about the winning. Fred and his cohorts delivered their nation a reality check. Better to be hammered in two successive games and learn your true place in the world than reach the final and lose to Argentina and proclaim it a national tragedy. Brazil would never recover from that, clouding itself in a belief the result was merely an injustice on their divine right to win. Now they know there’s no injustice. They received the right justice. They have serious footballing problems, and cultural problems. As Les Murray so eloquently observed, get back to the “jogo bonito”, and just let the results flow from there. Selling out your soul in the name of winning at all costs is not the way to guarantee true happiness for your people.

Third Place Game

It’s a farce. You’re in a knock-out tournament. When you lose, you’re knocked out, that’s it. No one cares about a dopey third-placed medal, and barely anyone remembers. All World Cup aspirations are to reach the final and then hope to win. To render another defeat on a team that’s already had their dream shattered, it’s soul destroying. Until one team makes a real issue of it, the charade of the match will continue.

Netherland’s coach Louis van Gaal mocked the play-off pre-match, then preceded to field a strong team and show joy in winning it. Maybe that’s more to do with getting in a kick on Brazil while they are down; you rarely get such opportunities to record wins over Brazil. One brave team needs to make the match a farce and treat it with disdain. Field all reserve players and just sit around the backline when in possession.

Goal Line Technology, Offsides and Referees

Great for the viewers at home to see the goal-line technology in action. In practice, it was never needed. In one match the referee might have waited for the confirmation (apparently that only takes 1 second) of a ball that was clearly over before the goalie dragged it back. There’s countless wrong offside calls that deny goals and goal chances in in every game that should be addressed, yet FIFA focuses on something that might fix a refereeing error once every 20 years?

While the referees did falsely call many plays as offside, credit actually must be give overall as countless times the line-ball decisions were allowed. Some plays might have been a whisker offside. All fine because FIFA dictates to favour the attacker. It then became depressing that even when the referees got it right, the commentators would dwell about a potential offside. Geez. Even if you want to ignore FIFA’s edict, the spirit of the law was to stop strikers loitering in front of the goal. It was never meant for the cynical and tactical device that it has become whereby anyone with a eyebrow offside must be halted for being a rampant cheat and grabbing a gargantuan advantage to score. Let it go. In fact, FIFA should amend the real that offside is only when there’s clear space between the body of the attacker and the last defender. Meaning, the attacker can be a full body-width “offside” under the current goal-denying culture of the game.

Shock, horror, Brazil 2014 really should be remembered for the excellent refereeing. That won’t happen because excellence in refereeing means they are oblivious to our senses. It’s only when they are poor that the referees are noticed. While they can never be 100% correct, even if video referral were added, they were almost as correct as they could realistically get.

The worst decision and the best decision I saw came in one match. The best being the penalty and yellow card when Arjen Robben was fouled early in the third-placed game. The commentator, as did many pundits, said it must be a red and the foul was outside the box. No. Being given a penalty actually provides a greater goal scoring chance, not removing one, while Robben fell inside the box. Let’s say you want to adjudge it as outside, then yes it would be a red because a goal chance was snuffed. So, after 3 minutes, we have no goal for the Dutch and Brazil a man down for the rest of the match, or do you want the Dutch a goal up and Brazil will a full team to try retrieve the game? I know the outcome I want: the one that is best for football.

The worst refereeing decision was when Oscar was given a yellow when it was a clear foul on him. The score was 2-0 when it potentially it’s 2-1. While the referee excelled with the Robben decision to preserve the game, he totally fluffed the one on Oscar to prevent it really coming alive.

Predictions

Since I was holiday just prior to the World Cup, my predictions were made as the group phase was well under way. The draw is always the key, and that allowed three out of the four semi finalists to be predicted. The miss was Germany, who were scheduled to meet France in the quarter final. France seemed to be the hot team of the tournament while Germany struggled after their initial 4-0 rout of Portugal, so favoured France. From there I expected France to humble Brazil and then there’d be a close final with Argentina. Initially leaving the result to fate as to whichever team was in dark blue due to a clash of strips, it was later realised there would be no clash of home strips so France would be dark blue and Argentina their light stripes. France the world champions.

In hindsight, the only change I’d have made had I predicted before the tournament was Spain to win their group and be in Netherland’s spot of the draw, so a Spain vs Argentina semi final a lock. The other side would be Brazil vs Netherlands in the R16 game, and most likely would have picked Germany to reach the semi. France struggled to qualify and would never have been on my radar. The unknown is Italy. Had they won their group they’d have faced Spain in the quarter final. Had they been second, it would have been Brazil or Netherlands in a QF. Either way, I’d have certainly expected Spain to triumph in their semi final, and most like Brazil to eke their way into theirs. While always believing Brazil will fold under the pressure somewhere (most likely the SF), that meant a Germany vs Spain final.

Best Goals

After finally seeing the entire goal from Tim Cahill, it’s number one because of the build-up from kick-off and for the purity of execution of a shot that had an ultra high difficulty level. It triumphs James Rodriguez’s for Colombia for that was more a pot-shot and only made more spectacular with the controlled juggle that preceded it. I rate it third overall. David Luiz’s stunning free kick for Brazil against Colombia is second because it’s far more deliberate and skilful, and, again, the execution was sublime for something of a really high difficulty level. Van Persie’s flying header for Netherlands against Spain in fourth.

Missing in many lists is David Villa’s goal against Australia. On top of the delightful back-heel sweep to score, the goal was preceded by a 15-pass build-up that ripped the entire Australian team apart. These expansive and elaborately constructed goals are far more satisfying than the long range pop-shots. While they are spectacular, they are largely hit or miss, with 90% of them heading into the stands.

Sweeping counter attacks are also special. France delivered a few of those, especially against Switzerland, Mexico might have delivered one against Croatia, Holland hit Chile with one, and there’s a few others I can’t remember. Either way, the onus should be more on broader footballing elements when adjudicating best goals. These top 10 lists really should have a mix of goals in them, not just the long range bombs.

Player of the Tournament

No doubt it’s Arjen Robben of Netherlands. It was the spark of that team and by far the tournament’s most dangerous player, and the tournament’s most dangerous player. The fact Argentina’s Lionel Messi actually one the “Golden Ball” is just stupid politically correctness of FIFA. The world’s best player of his generation had to be rewarded somehow if his team could not win the Cup itself. The simply fact of the matter is that when Messi had the chance to score a goal in the final and deliver Argentina the World Cup, he fluffed it. Whereas Robben delivered all the time. As did Colombia’s James Rodriguez. He really carried that team more than anyone carried a team, and was the tournament’s leading goal scorer. He’s second pick, so Messi at least third.

Moments

For all Brazil’s heartache, they did produce the most abiding moment of the World Cup: the disbelief on the faces of their fans in the crowd. As Germany piled up the goals, it really was stunned disbelief and the feeling of watching a trainwreck in slow motion. How much more could they take? Then it was just resignation to defeat, and pleas to stop the punishment. Enough damage had been done.

Second to Brazil would be the demolition of Spain by the Netherlands. While you could attribute that game as just a freak of sports, especially since many of the goals were circumstantial rather than Spain being actually dismantled or played ultra bad like Brazil did, the follow up loss of 2-0 to Chile confirmed a reign prematurely halted. That match also impacted directly on Australia, eliminating them from the competition. Up until that point, had Spain beaten Chile, Australia was still alive, needing to beat Spain in their final match.

Yellow Cards and Suspensions

FIFA’s a joke. With the paucity of yellow cards, media was criticising FIFA for allowing referees to be too lenient so to prevent the stars of the sport being suspended from games. So guess who’s wiping yellow cards before the semi finals start to prevent any star players being suspended for the final on a second yellow? FIFA! This was rushed in for the last World Cup, and remains for this one. UEFA just announced a similar rule for the Champions League.

Yellow cards will always remain problematic because they are no deterrent. Clearly the powers that be also don’t like players being suspended for future – especially bigger – games. Not only are they denying the player a golden moment in life, they are rewarding a future team that was irrelevant to the game in which the suspension occurred. The answer is simple: If a red card means permanent expulsion, a yellow should be a temporary one. At least 10 minutes as a start, maybe 15 to really have the cards respected and the players curtail poor behaviour. That way the team is immediately and properly punish, while the infringed team gets the direct reward of a “power play” of sorts.

Neymar

Sad to say, that’s the culture of the sport in South America – to cheat. We hear it all the time, it’s intrinsic to South and Central American teams to beat authority, to bend rules, even break rules, all to get one up. This “assault” in the quarter final that led to a fractured vertebrae is no different. The motive was to beat authority, not to injure Neymar. It looked harmless; only the result made it problematic, hence calls for a red card or some sort of post match punishment.

Let’s look at it if it was the first minute and the foul had no consequences of injury, and the Colombian is red-carded. Suddenly we’re all hysterical that the game was ruined by the referee’s over-zealous action, and that Brazil could just breeze past Colombia. Sorry, we can’t have it both ways. It was a dirty game in which Brazil committed 31 fouls. We either disdain this culture of cheating and applaud the courage of referees to give red cards, or we continue as normal.

Asia and World Cup Qualifying

As much as Asia’s results were poor of winning no games and achieving just 3 draws, this World Cup is a reality check that Europe and South America still dominate the sport. Argentina vs Germany in the final. Yup, we’ve never see that before. Or Brazil and Netherlands in the semi finals. While it’s easy to pick on Asia’s teams in last place of their groups, let’s not forget that seven of Europe’s 13 teams failed too, as did 3 of Africa’s. The two African teams that progressed had Asian teams in their group, and were then promptly beaten in R16 by Europeans. In the test against Europe and South America, Africa failed just as much as Asia did. Then you really should exclude Algeria, because they are more an Arab team and benefiting from so many French born players. From black Africa, the region Pele famously predicted they’d win the World Cup by 2000, they went backwards.

CONCACAF continue to be just two teams: USA and Mexico. Both eliminated in R16 too. In fact, Mexico has never progressed past R16, while USA’s only success was in 2002. Of Costa Rica, the third team that reached the knockout stage, only once in 20 years you might see that happen. Then they were lucky not be bundled out by Greece.

The solution? Nothing. It’s a tournament to represent the world, not necessarily the best 32. Otherwise, you should have a world qualifying phase, rather than by confederation and the squabble for spots.

Maybe there should be a world qualifying phase? Split the world into 4 regions: Europe, Africa, Asia/Oceania, Americas. Each get four direct spots, which could be based on their continental championships. Then you have 8 world groups containing a team from each region. Play round robin home and away. The winners and best 7 second placed teams go to the World Cup. The final spot is reserved for the host. This process would do more to help the weaker regions by playing serious games and against serious opponents, rather than mostly beating up their own to qualify.

Australia – Results Matter

It is about the results. You can’t tell anyone that had Australia been hammered 5-0 in every game that we’d have learnt anything or, indeed, been happy with “the result”. The fact Australia returned acceptable losses, pushing Chile and Netherlands in the process, is a “good result”. That’s because Australia exceeded expectations. So when you say “results don’t matter”, the real implication is that “unrealistic results don’t matter”.

Reality is that if you’re not playing for results at major tournaments, then why bother to show up? As we saw from Ange Postecoglou and some of the boys and many fans like myself, the fact Australia did not get a tangible result of at least 1 point or even a win, it was very disappointing. Missed opportunities will be long rued – especially that game against the Dutch in which Australia briefly led 2-1. While such losses will be tolerated for this World Cup given the inexperience of the team, it won’t be for the next.

Media

The only flaw with the coverage was Martin Tyler in the commentary box. He saps the energy from any game with his inane waffling. He’s been poor for 20 years now and the way he drifts off, it’s now far more frequent and lengthy these days. The best case in point was Germany’s seventh goal against Brazil. Germany’s in the attacking third and Tyler is waffling on, then suddenly there’s a goal and he needs to reanimate again. He should have been already animated. SBS probably doesn’t get much choice with Tyler, as he’d be part of a generic pool of English commentators for the English speaking world.

For an area that Australia could control, Craig Foster was a trainwreck as “special comments”, or whatever you call the audible verbal spasms he makes. Especially against Spain, the jingoistic coaching and cheering on every play was a national embarrassment and a disgrace. How about a touch of professionalism? He’d probably be the first to mock the patriotic commentary that Channel 9 does for cricket, and here he is acting like an infant. With Les Murray sadly now hosting his last World Cup, let’s hope Fozz is consigned to those more static hosting duties. The bonus for Australia is that there only three games in which Australia had to tolerate Fozz whereas Tyler was up almost every match day.

Other than the commentary debacles, everything was superb. The vision, all the studio hosts and studio experts and the support shows (sad that no World Cup show on Monday to review, hum, the world cup final!) – SBS might have delivered the best coverage of any major sporting event Australia has seen. All other Australian media was brilliant too, with News Ltd and Fairfax having comprehensive coverage, not to mention pay-TV Fox Sports having daily shows. Australia was so spoiled this time. It was amazing.

The Best Ever World Cup?

Was it a great World Cup? Yes. Was it the best ever? No. I still rate USA 94 as the best ever World Cup. After a gripping group stage, the knockout stage of Brazil 2014 was riddled with boring draws and predictable results. For all the talk of unpredictable results, that was mostly in the group stage. Come the knockout stage it was situation normal. All the group winners won their R16 match – the first time that had never happened. Of the lesser lights like Costa Rica and Belgium that made quarter finals, they couldn’t progress, with the semi finals involving traditional big guns of Brazil, Argentina, Germany and Netherlands, with the final Germany vs Argentina. Hardly anything to portend a new world order in football.

In contrast, USA had an equally vibrant group stage, followed by an amazing knockout phase. Goals were as prolific with USA 94 averaging 2.6 goals per game in the round robin compared to 2.8 for Brazil 2014. That marginal difference is explained by the greater number of blow-outs in Brazil, not higher scoring competitive matches. Portugal, Spain, Cameroon, Honduras and Australia all conceded at least seven goals, while in USA only Cameroon (mostly from one game) and Greece conceded at least 7 goals.

In the knockout phase, Brazil 2014 returned a measly 2.2 goals per game (1.8 if you ignore the German whitewash of Brazil in the semi final), compared to 3 goals per game at USA 94. Even the memorable knockout matches, there were none in Brazil, compared to classics at USA 94 like Romania v Argentina, Italy v Nigeria, Netherlands v Brazil and Bulgaria v Germany. If not for the rubbish final, USA 94 would have been just about perfect. Mexico 1986 probably comes second of those World Cups I’ve seen, with Brazil 2014 in third. If I’m to factor in Australia’s involvement, Germany 2006 will always have a special place in the heart.

That was Brazil 2014 – The Twentieth World Championship of Football

Young Socceroos make turkey of both performance and result

29 Saturday 2013

Four years ago, at the U20 World Cup in Egypt, the Young Socceroos returned one of their worse results at any World Cup – losing all three games. The tournament was noted more for SBS’s bizarre response to it as a success because of “performance”, rather the appraising by conventional barometer of results. Stranger than that, the performance was weak anyway – with SBS seeming to have an agenda to support the newly installed Dutch coaching structure right through the game regardless of a results and to vindicate its long established railing against coaches of Australian or British origin. Read more at the website, under “Action > Egypt 2009”

Turkey 2013 was similar. While the Dutch influence has faded thanks to a German (Holger Osieck) now coaching the Socceroos and an Australian (Paul Okon) now coaching the Young Socceroos, it’s still present at a “technical” level and obviously needs to endorsed. Whether your mantra is “results are secondary to performance” or “results are primary to performance”, the Socceroo Realm examines both via posts made to SBS’s own theworldgame.com.au website.

Australia vs Colombia – 1-1

A match in three phases: Colombia started strongly, Australian dominated much of the middle, Colombia the end when chasing a result. Against the South American champions, it was a bright start, and the team looked really good. That got both the fans and Craig Foster in lathers of drool.

The result…

Can we actually reach the group phase before hyperventilating? Remember, 24 teams at this tournament, so knockout phase includes four best third placed teams, so making it is actually minimum standard. If we beat El Salvador then that’s enough for qualification. We want to then win one knockout and see quarter final at least.

The one issue of this match was towards the end. When the match really counted and Colombians applied pressure, we weren’t that good. Before that, the Colombians were lazy (or arrogant), not really closing us down, then they were chasing the game. Colombia’s goal came from appalling defensive organisation too. The match against Turkey will be our real test.

The performance…

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It was one match, at a YOUTH World Cup, against a lazy opposition that didn’t quickly close us down. In the latter stages of the second half, when they did, the boys ran out of options, playing too cute at times, and constantly losing possession, much like the senior team does. In all due respect, that 2009 team was a farce. They played a few patches of nice passing (mostly in the defensive half) and then were hammered. Most of the guys there haven’t progressed, so a lot of good it did them. Fozzie made an embarrassment of himself congratulating a team that displayed little and produced even less.

The U20 WC is also one tournament and is merely the terminal point of a short international youth career of a player’s total career. Players return to their clubs, and that’s where the real development takes place. Still the single biggest factor affecting results at any Youth World Cup is the talent itself, and that’s the area this team seems to have great potential. Of course, we won’t know until the knockout phase or really know for 4 or 5 years, not whether they can knock a few balls around in group matches of this tournament.

Australia vs El Salvador – 1-2

A cracking early goal from Joshua Brillante seemed to portend the win that most expensive against apparently the weakest team in the group. That wasn’t the case. Australia was lethargic and let down by poor concentration to go behind and then lacking any inspiration going forward. Did they believe their own press? Attitude seemed a problem, not paying enough respect to the opposition, as is often the fault of the Australian “bully” sporting psyche when supremacy gathers air. To compound that, Okon waited far too long to make substitutions. It was El Salvador’s first win at any World Cup. Congratulations to them.

The result…

Now, let’s not write off the team. With Colombia beating Turkey in the other match (after Turkey beat El Salvador 3-0 in the first game), that suggests not only is Australia at least equal chance to beat Turkey too, it also confirms the vagaries of the sport. Anything can happen. If Australia win, that then means the next phase as this tournament is 24 teams so the 4 best third placed teams go through.

The performance…

How the tide turns. After Colombia, the tone is hyperbolic and Fozz couldn’t wait to post his blog about all the footballing misconceptions (maybe this was written before even the team played?), and now it’s all doom and gloom. Facts are that Colombia were so lazy in closing us down. Only at the end, with the game on the line, did they bother. Maybe they were pacing themselves, as they then went on to beat Turkey. El Salvador, on the other hand, gave us nothing. Even Fozz admitted this post match in the studio. It was worse than that, as ES had most of the better chances and far more dangerous. Australia were totally useless going forward, and for all the talk of ES’s “cheap” goals, ours was just as cheap – being a long, speculative shot that was helped with the goalie obscured.

Australia vs Turkey – 1-2

This was the quintessential tight, World Cup match. Both teams had chances to win. The problem was that with all teams in the group already having a win, Australia had to win to ensure the next phase. Turkey only needed a draw, or even a loss could suffice. Australia scored first – at the start of the second half – only to be promptly snuffed with a cracking shot from outside the box. Turkey finished it off with an even better effort – a long range chip into the top, left corner of the net.

The result…

A bit of an embarrassment. Australia couldn’t even get the basics rights. They led all three games and finished with one draw. Who cares if you can knock the ball around a bit? Now we know that those bright moments against Colombia were definitely because Colombia allowed it. We get all hyperbolic about, two matches later, Colombia tops the group and Australia the bottom.

Les Murray tweeted: “Young Socceroos outplayed Colombia, copped El Salvador on a very good day and outplayed themselves v Turkey. Overall some very good signs.” It could just as easily be seen as Colombia had an off day or took Australia too lightly, Australia did likewise against El Salvador, and didn’t have the polish of Turkey. What does “outplayed themselves” mean anyway? If they had played a normal, conventional game, they would have won? If that’s the case, yes please.

Thankfully the team did not listen to this SBS nonsense of “results secondary to performance”. It’s a World Cup. If you don’t go for results there, where will you get them? These players now return to their clubs where the true development takes place. Both them and the coach were rightfully shattered. For all the hopes we had with this team, you simply must be critical of the final result. Let’s also remember, it is about the final result. The sport is a game of vagaries of nuances: not just within the game itself, also within a succession of a few games. Analyse tournaments at the end.

Overall, Australia were competitive in all games; they just lacked the killer punch forward (too much messing around as seems to be the hallmark of Australian national teams these days), and lacked in defence. While Australia were unlucky to score more, they were also lucky not to concede more. With some defensive stout, this team could have topped the group. It was that even.

We also need to end this nonsense of slamming opposition goals as “cheap” or “gifted” as coach Paul Okon often did. That’s poor sportsmanship. Most goals in football games are cheap if you analyse them. Of Australia’s goals through the tournament, the first should have been saved, the second was the type from long range that 90% of the time will end in the stands, and the third was a technically tough mid-range volley at pace – again, more often miss than hit. Most of the goals we conceded also could be considered as low percentage chances or could be defended better. That’s football. Don’t whinge. Just get on scoring the next one, or do better stopping them in the first place.

The performance…

Emulate Spain and Barcelona? All great in theory, totally unrealistic in practice. We are not Spain. Not even far more pedigreed and established teams like the Netherlands are Spain. We just don’t have the players. While we can do it in spurts, and usually against opposition of less credentials or against teams that allow us (like Colombia at this WC), when it comes to the crunch, we don’t have the ability – and we are decades away from it. Our players are so sporadic in ability that our national teams should adapt to them for the time. If we have two gun strikers, we play them. If our midfielders are strong, we go heavy there.

This is not club football where you can pick a squad and develop it over years. They are representative teams. You pick your best, and play them in their best positions. We learnt that through the senior team’s qualifying phase. At a World Cup, it’s even more important is it’s the summit of the campaign, so you want the best possible results. The mantra of “results are secondary to performance” is utter nonsense. Maybe it is in warm-up games, it’s not in the real thing. No nation would even contemplating going to a World Cup to disrespect the opposition and the integrity of the competition itself just to experiment with a playing style that they’re ill-equipped to perform. For Australia, it’s even more than that. It’s un-Australian not to fight.

Now done with the World Cup, where to these players go now – A-League, lower Euro clubs, Qatar, UAE? We reap nothing in “performance”, only get embarrassment from the result. If these players infiltrate into the national team in years time, it will be on the back of development at club football, and then within the national team environment itself.

In all sport, the best indicator of performance is winning. At world level, as we’ve just seen in the senior World Cup qualifying, we need to adapt. There’ll be times of grinding out results, stout defending and swift passing. It depends on the opposition. The youth team did one of those aspects reasonably well; failed in all others.

Let’s note: they led all 3 games and left with 1 draw. That exposes glaring faults to be examined, not faux gold medals and congratulations because you liked a few passages of play – or even like the intent to play nice passages of play. At least the boys and the coach saw the importance of results. They were clearly shattered at the early elimination. That will do them far more good than a letter of congratulations from Craig Foster for the “performance” of knocking the ball around when under little pressure.

Long term, the strategy for strong national teams is developing the A-League. When it’s 14 teams with 50,000 crowds at most games, then we’re a mature football nation, and then the flow-on effects to the national teams will be automatic. No top nation has a weak national league. We’re fooling ourselves if we believe we can succeed by any other method. This is the ethos of the “I told you so” mantra by the late Johnny Warren. Too easily have we run away with the sentiment while forgetting its foundations.

GROUP C

22/06 18:00	Trabzon		Colombia	1:1 (0:0)	Australia
22/06 21:00	Trabzon		Turkey		3:0 (1:0)	El Salvador
25/06 18:00	Rize		Australia	1:2 (1:2)	El Salvador
25/06 21:00	Rize		Turkey		0:1 (0:0)	Colombia
28/06 21:00	Trabzon		Australia	1:2 (0:0)	Turkey
28/06 21:00	Gaziantep	El Salvador	0:3 (0:2)	Colombia
Team		P	W	D	L	GD	Pts
Colombia	3	2	1	0	4	7
Turkey		3	2	0	1	3	6
El Salvador	3	1	0	2	5-	3
Australia	3	0	1	2	2-	1

Full site: socceroorealm.com