Same Crap, Different Bucket
An Englishman's adventure in the land that Chocolate Digestives forgot.

Australia 1 USA 3

I fear I’ve overdone it with the friendlies. Apart from the three Australia games, I’ve also watched all of England’s warm-ups, France’s defeat to China, and even managed to squeeze in half an hour of Serbia v New Zealand. With four days left to go before the World Cup, I’m already a bit stuffed. I’m concerned I may not have room left for a wafer-thin group game between Honduras and Switzerland.  

On Saturday night, I found myself watching Australia take on the United States, just four days after seeing the Socceroos participate in one of the dullest things I’ve ever witnessed (note how I haven’t restricted this to football matches, or even sporting events. Frankly, I’d imagine it would have been more entertaining to watch my own colonoscopy). Thankfully, unlike Tuesday’s turgid spectacle, this game didn’t make me want to run at full speed into a wall. 

Despite concerns about the quality of the playing surface, the match again took place in the idyllic surroundings of the Roodepoort Stadium, Johannesburg. After ten minutes the pitch began to visibly disintegrate and by the end of the match it looked as if it had been trampled by a marauding herd of impala (possibly startled by one of Lucas Neill’s numerous wayward passes from defence). 

Only the constant din of hundreds of school children blowing vuvuzelas broke the illusion that the match was being played in secret in the middle of a national park. A wide brown river flows parallel to the far wing, and throughout the first half a thick plume of black smoke billowed on the horizon – if anyone from the production team of Channel Seven’s ‘Today Tonight’ was watching, we can expect more editorials about the perils thousands of Aussie soccer fans face in the most dangerous place in the universe. 

The bus loads of raucous children were joined in the crowd by David Beckham, no doubt on an important scouting mission for Fabio Capello. I can empathize with Beckham’s frustration at writing something no-one will bother to read; I get stats on how many people actually download this rubbish, you know.   

For USA coach, Bob Bradley, the fixture provided an opportunity to prepare for their World Cup opener against England. However, it is unclear what he could possibly learn by playing against a team who frequently surrender possession, are over-reliant on one star player and only pose a threat from set pieces. Ah. Clever man, that Bradley. 

Meanwhile, much of the talk in the Australia camp had centred on the fitness of Harry Kewell, with one local newspaper even running a daily column written by his groin. Apart from a few gentle jogs down the running track, Kewell and his groin spend the duration on the bench. 

Pim Verbeek has a serious demeanour. He also has the hairstyle of a man who has recently been attacked by a baboon. His hair springs from his scalp in wispy clumps as he frowns into the distance, perhaps recalling a ruined afternoon at a safari park.

It’s no surprise he looks so concerned; the United States cut through Australia’s brittle defence with frequent ease. As early as the third minute, Grella was brushed off the ball by the sprightly Buddle, who charged on to spank the ball past Schwarzer. Ten minutes later, the defence was exposed again, with Dempsey slipping a pass through to Findlay. Despite skipping past Schwarzer, Findlay could only screw his shot wide. Pim creases his forehead and scribbles some angry notes on the back on an envelope. 

Remarkably, Australia then draw level, as Tim Cahill volleyed home a corner kick which the US defence watched float across their penalty area as if dreamily spotting shooting stars on Makeout Hill. 

The USA restored their lead after half an hour, with Buddle heading in a perfect cross from the right foot of Cherundolo. Moments later, Kennedy missed an almost identical chance to equalise at the other end. From there on in, the US dominated – only some timely blocks from Schwarzer and the generosity of a linesman prevented a heavier defeat. By the time Hercules Gomes tapped in a third goal in injury time, the match was over as a contest. 

Until this match, I had thought Australia may provide a challenge to their Group C opponents. Although uninspiring going forward, they appeared well-organised in defence and industrious enough in midfield to constrict the creativity out of more gifted opponents. However, the ease with which the US cut through the Socceroos defence with simple passing and movement will cause Verbeek more headaches over the next few days than any imaginary primate attacks.   

Here are the goals from the match with Spanish commentary and a generic house soundtrack.


One Response to “Australia 1 USA 3”

  1. Been a distinct lack of WCWUG on telly here, I reckon they’re trying not remind people that there will be a swarm of Bees in their living rooms for the next month.

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