by S.L D'Souza (firstname.lastname@example.org)
OK, you Aussies got us Kiwis good. 6 -1 on aggregate to be precise. But in soccer there is always a next time ....
Well, that's the theory anyway. The reality is that alarm bells in New Zealand soccer have reached deafening levels. So much so that even the New Zealand Coach, Ken Dugdale seems to have thrown in the towel. No longer did he employ the traditional hopeful cliches such as "The better team won on the day" and "We'll get 'em next time " but rather "We just can't compete, "Australia are just too good and the gap will just keep Getting bigger" (or words to that effect).
More alarm bells rang in the New Zealand soccer fraternity later in the week when 2 All Whites Auckland Kingz players signed for.... Hull City. Hull who? This added insult to injury. Especially when the CEO of Soccer New Zealand appeared in the press lauding the deal as "good for soccer in New Zealand".
Meanwhile Australia's best players, Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka, play at Mighty Leeds United. However, they weren't selected (in a nutshell) because they didn't really thing the World Cup play-offs were important enough. Kewell's brilliance is in stark contrast to his total ambivalence toward the national side. Viduka's may be more enthusiastic, but once still gets the nagging feeling (after brief episode with Celtic) his true personal ambition lie in club football.
All this hardly made a difference in the final analysis. Viduka and Kewell are expendable when the cream of the opposition soccer are queuing for up to join obscure 3rd Division English League clubs.
The question is: Should Australia care? After all, surely it's just a matter of Australia investing better in all areas of Sport? Swimming, tennis, cricket etc. etc. It could be argued that Australia's Transtasman rivals are receiving poor returns of years of under-investment. Australia are now no longer a just big brother but a big brother who is about to be graduate university with honours and go into the Wide World Cup.
The truth is; Australia is succeeding in soccer almost in spite of itself. Certainly not due to the organisation of its domestic competition. If the national team goes on to beat the 5th placed South American side, and then the likely scenario is a huge fillip for the game's credibility and therefore attracting both financial and emotional support. The Transtasman gap will not able to be breached.
If not and the Australian choke (as have often done) then they may well have to content themselves with whipping Kiwis for a little while longer.