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Soup of This Day #342: Hungry For What Was To Come

October 15, 2013

Fritz-Walter-Stadion
Fritz-Walter-Stadion in Kaiserslautern. Expect big things on this turf – Photo: Kandschwar, 2006. Kandschwar is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

In June of 2006 the Socceroos, Australia’s national soccer team, played in their 1st World Cup tournament for 32 years, and just their 2nd overall. Between those 2 successful qualification campaigns had been 32 years of stilted attempts, sometimes comedic, sometimes brave, but always tragic. And that was just to get to the main event – That time 32 years past when we did qualify, 1974 in Germany, had ended after just the 3 group games.

Because we won none of them.

That latter fact is pretty much what you’d expect when you don’t score a goal. Yep, we got shut-out 3 times, although in the last of those encounters we at least held Chile to the same score, netting us a solitary point for the tournament.

So going into the 2006 World Cup my expectations were set low. And even if you disregarded the 1974 history as being too distant to be meaningful, then there were some more recent results that were fuelling my pragmatism. The 2005 Confederations Cup tournament was a disaster for the Socceroos – It included losses to a South American colossus (Argentina) and a European power (Germany) and ultimately culminated in the dismissal of then-coach Frank Farina.

I figured at the time though that none of this mattered – For the previous quarter century or so I had dreamed of seeing my beloved national team in a World Cup and now it was happening I honestly thought I’d be happy regardless of how they played. My heart was pretty much full up, just standing in front of my TV for the Australian national anthem as the lads lined up against Japan in their opening Group F match in Kaiserslautern’s Fritz-Walter-Stadion. Asking the football gods for a win seemed like pushing it and so my hope for the game was a modest goal.

By around the 80 minute mark though and I was a little disappointed – We’d been competitive but trailed 0-1 to an unlucky cross that had eluded Socceroo keeper Mark Schwarzer’s clumsy lunge just before half-time. Essentially, we’d looked dangerous but without being lethal – What I like to call the CHiPs scenario.

Because Ponch and Larry got into all sorts of situations but never unholstered their guns.

I’m not counting CHiPs ’99. I never do. But maybe Tim Cahill does because late in the day when the Socceroos show seemed like it had ended its run, Tim got shooting…

In the 84th minute, Cahill got to a loose ball in the penalty area, drove a low grounder through a drawn-in defence, and just past the lunge of a defender on the line. We had a goal and I had my expectations reset. Now, I was eyeing off a draw.

Tim Cahill wasn’t done firing though.

Just 5 minutes later and the ball found itself at his feet just at the edge of the attacking ‘D’. Tim curled it home off an upright and we led 2-1 with a minute of regulation left on the clock.

My expectations were suddenly raised anew. Because now I was thinking a victory and all 3 points. All we had to do was hold the lead.

We did better than that – In quick-time John Aloisi made it 3-1 to the Socceroos and shortly thereafter the final whistle went on what remains 1 of the 2 most extraordinary football matches I’ve ever seen.

And it’s a game I got to thinking about today, Mostly because of Tim Cahill and how he’d changed my expectations. The great players in any sport do that – They redefine what you think is possible – Just when you’re starting to wonder if the Boston Red Sox are going 0-2 down in the 2013 American League Championship Series (ALCS), then up a great player will step to smoke a grand slam home run into the Fenway bullpen, tying up the game and swatting momentum around like a grizzly with a salmon.

Yep. I’m talking about David Ortiz.

Big. Papi.

Just like with the Socceroos in 2006, the Red Sox were misfiring – They got shut out of Game 1 of the series, managing just 1 hit for the night. And through the 1st 5 innings of Game 2 this Sunday night just past they were facing down the same predicament – No hits, no runs. No chance.

Except the Red Sox have David Ortiz. He’s been and done the Tim Cahill thing before – Scored in big games. So when he’s coming to the plate, bases loaded and his team down 1-5, bottom of the 8th, then you should expect something big.

I don’t though. I expect that the natural laws of baseball, of averages and statistics, will win out and that Big Papi will not be able to do this thing 1 more time. Surely not…

Kaboom.

Just like that, my expectations got reset. Because now we have Koji Uehara on the mound for a tied game and then we’re a better than even shot at this. And sure enough Koji saves and we’ve got 3 bats primed for a walkoff.

Jonny Gomes singles and then gets advanced to 2nd on a wildly optimistic defencive throw. Ironsides then gets to 3rd on an equally wild pitch and Fenway found itself looking to Jarrod Saltalamacchia with no outs and the winning run just 90 feet from the plate.

He got a loose ball where he could hit it, drove a low grounder through a drawn-in defence, and just past the lunge of a defender on the line. We had a walk-off win and I had my expectations raised anew.

Back to the Socceroos and they could use some raising of the expectations anew too. They’ve qualified for the 2014 World Cup but as for the 2006 edition they’ve not had great form of late. Including losses to a South American colossus (Brazil) and a European power (France) both of which have ultimately culminated in the dismissal of coach Holger Osieck.

So I’m not expecting much when the Socceroos kick off in Rio. Tim Cahill will be there though and at 33 he’s still 4 years younger than Big Papi. Maybe we can get a goal – Just the 1 goal to start…

Hungry For What Was To Come

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