Football is such an unfair game that a fan has to accentuate the positives. First, we got to celebrate two Australian goals against Chile. The two trademark Tim Cahill headers that rattled the back of the net were the motivation that drives every one of the 15,000 supporters to follow the Socceroos half away around the world.
Ok, so one of them didn’t count. But emotionally, that is just a technicality. Super Tim gave us the thrill of jumping up and hugging anyone within touching distance in a frenzied embrace that sustains you through all the low moments.
What made those two goals even more special was who we hugged: Tim Cahill’s mother!
Shortly before the match started our group saw a few empty seats among a large throng of Aussies, with a heavy sprinkling of women and children. It turned out they were the players’ families and friends and Tim’s mother was right in front of us, so when her son rose for that first header, she became part of our mass hugging, along with other members of his family. Goalkeeper Mitch Langerak’s mates gave us bear hugs from behind.
More positives. Tim Cahill has scored as many World Cup as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo combined. And after the first round of our group matches, we are third – ahead of Spain on goal difference. Who would have ever thought we would be ahead of Spain, at any stage of a World Cup?
Yes, we lost, but that spirit and skill – yes, skill – of the Socceroos’ performance gives us genuine confidence about enjoying the next two matches against the big boys of our group, which has already shifted the entire mood of this World Cup through the Netherland’s remarkable win over Spain.
Better than that, virtually every game has been high quality and full of goals, with favourites being pushed and even upset by muscular underdogs. The most satisfying to date, for Australian fans, was Costa Rica’s comeback against Uruguay, shredding their defence with three thrilling counterattacks. We cheered extra loud for each one.
Ivory Coast showed their traditional flair to beat the more disciplined Japanese, and even Italy and England managed to put on a spectacle when a draw seemed much more likely after the Costa Rica upset.
As we wait to see whether Messi or Ronaldo can finally impose themselves on a World Cup, a few stars beneath them have already put up their hands: Chile’s Alexis Sanchez showed that touch of class against us, as did Oscar in Brazil’s untidy win over Croatia, and Mario Balotelli showed some beautiful touches for Italy against England.
The most original moment so far, however, was when the England physio injured himself after the team scored, and we had the bizarre sight of a sideline official being carried off, without ever having gone onto the field in combat.
Compared to that, whinges about dreadful refereeing decisions are as predictable as an Italian dive.