Italy, and then what?

Kewell ScoresI know a few of you are annoyed that I keep writing about football. Well, all I can say is that if you aren’t as obsessed with it as I am, you’re missing out. It’s the biggest sports story of my lifetime – forget the America’s Cup. I know I have. The World Cup has been incredible so far – the match between Portugal and the Netherlands, with 16 yellow cards, was an absolute cracker. But one of the best stories so far has been Australia’s. If the nation doesn’t get into the round-ball game after as exciting a World Cup as this, we may as well shut down the A-League and get Fatty to stomp all over SBS’s “Told you so” sign.

Tonight’s match against Italy is the real thing. Taking it to Brazil in the group games was impressive, but both teams could qualify from that point. Now we’re playing with live grenades – literally, if some of the Italian tackles in their now-infamous match against the USA were anything to go by. For once, we may not be the only ones giving away free kicks.

I said it last game and it didn’t eventuate, but this is the game for Mark Viduka to show us he’s not just a holding midfielder who’s too tubby to run back from the goal. Former captain Craig Moore stepped up against Croatia with a brilliantly-struck penalty. Even Harry Kewell finished a game as a hero instead of limping off. Now it’s time Viduka pulled his weight. And there’s a fair bit of that.

With record ratings, it’d be fair to say the Socceroos have convinced the nation, and also the world. And incredibly, even the English are complimentary about their efforts – partly as a means of criticising their own lacklustre team.

But the future of the game beyond this World Cup is largely unclear. Here are the odds on what might happen.

  • As in South America, it will undergo a successful merger with the sport of diving: 4–1
  • The game that has now moved beyond its traditional base of migrants and inner-city trendies will rapidly returned to it because it’s only on Fox Sports: 3–5
  • More specifically, our newfound love of football will be quickly replaced with a newfound hatred of Fox Sports’ Robbie Slater. You Premier League fans know what I’m saying: 3–1
  • It will be basketball’s turn to be a brief Sydney fad again, followed by AFL: 15–1
  • Yearning for more exciting, skilful football, millions of new fans will turn to the A-League for all of one game: 2–1
  • The sport becomes annoyingly ubiquitous and desperately bland after Westfield’s Frank Lowy buys the whole thing: 50–1
  • The game’s future will be assured when we start regularly playing England at it: 5–1
  • The lure of the Socceroos’ next international campaign, the Asian Cup, draws viewers in their dozens: 20–1
  • Australians will renounce their love of obscure sports they can dominate and genuinely compete with the rest of the world : 10,000–1

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