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June 27th, 2006

Due to ‘a series of unfortunate events’, and despite at least moderate effort on my part, I managed to see only one of the goals scored in Australia’s World Cup campaign as it happened, and this was of course, the Italian penalty that ended our chances. I don’t know enough about the rules to tell, and I don’t suppose Guus Hiddink is an unbiased authority, but this seemed to me to be a pretty soft foul (maybe others can give a better-informed view on this). Of course, all sorts of chance happenings, such as injuries, rain and so on affect the outcome of sporting events, so it’s silly to complain. Then again, if we didn’t get to complain, half the fun of sporting events would be lost.

Anyway, relative to either our past record or our population (divided as it is among four different football codes), this was an amazing achievement.

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  1. Spiros
    June 27th, 2006 at 20:39 | #1

    The penalty was only the proximate cause of Australia’s defeat. The underlying cause was the inability to take advantage of attacking opportunities and score goals. Opportunities are extremely rare against top-class defences, so you’ve got to take them when they are present. This was evident also in the Brazil match. The strikers lacked the polish and the class that are so evident in the strikers in the top teams.

    One Australian forward in particular stood out as not being quite up to it at this level. I won’t say his name, but his initials are Mark Viduka.

  2. June 27th, 2006 at 20:54 | #2

    Funny how a sporting event brought me back to an economist’s website! Thanks John.

    I like Spiros’ calling of that penalty as but the ‘proximate cause’ of the defeat. Behind it, in one direction, was the refereeing foul – and the sour taste of having rightly or wrongly formed the impression that there was a whole nest of these critters with which we had to deal. Admiration of the timing of the Italian’s understrength champion team (defend for 45 minutes, and then throw everything to make the chance happen in the dying minutes of normal time). Recognition that we still have a lot to learn. And the memory of some ‘beautiful football’.

    There was a rainbow over Adelaide at dawn today.

  3. June 27th, 2006 at 21:19 | #3

    Spiros, Viduka wasn’t to blame.

    The Italians are well known for their defensive rigour, and it was that discipline that played Viduka out of the game.

    Overall, I agree 100% with what you said: “The underlying cause was the inability to take advantage of attacking opportunities and score goals.”

    Can’t score, can’t win. We also tounched in this at our blog.

  4. Spiros
    June 27th, 2006 at 21:54 | #4


    Viduka not only failed to score against Italy.

    He also didn’t score against Croatia, Brazil, Japan and Uruguay (both games).

  5. Peter Evans
    June 27th, 2006 at 21:55 | #5

    Soccer, like rugby union (but not rugby league) is a game you can control even if you don’t have the ball. Italy easily controlled Australia, because Australia played a very poor tactical game that played right into the Italian’s great strength – immaculate zonal defence. Trying to play a short passing, patient build-up game form the midfield, but without the ability to go very fast down the flanks (no Emerton or Kewell) to get in behind the defence was crazy – only Argentina of the sides at the current world cup could make that work against Italy. The Australian players haven’t the skill and the speed, and especially the vision. Very very few players do – it’s not a slight on this bunch of players, who mostly payed as well as they could have. There’s no way in the world Hiddink wasn’t aware of this, so the team, plus coach, must have decided that they were going to try and play this way to make a point about themselves, an act of defiance against football orthodoxy. Or they were nuts, or thought they could make Italy crack. Anyway, Australia was incredibly lucky to get as close to a win as they did. The send-off was garbage, and Italy had a very off day in front of goal – they will feel they should have won three-nil.


  6. jimmythespiv
    June 28th, 2006 at 00:05 | #6


    Dukes was usually on his own at the front without support – when was he not surrounded by 3 defenders, including at Centenario in Montevideo (I was at the ground). His role was clearly to draw defenders in to give the midfielders chances. He led from the front as captain and while he didn’t score, made a valuable contribution. But he did seem to have a goal hoodoo……..

  7. June 28th, 2006 at 07:11 | #7

    “all sorts of chance happenings, such as injuries, rain and so on affect the outcome of sporting events, so it’s silly to complain. Then again, if we didn’t get to complain, half the fun of sporting events would be lost”

    Absolutely. the result of a game cannot be put down to a single incident, much as it satisfies people to do so. Penalties and other decisions by officials are often deemed to be the moment in which a game was lost, much more so than won. The winning team usually says it was a team effort for the full game that secured the win.

  8. still working it out
    June 28th, 2006 at 07:56 | #8

    I feel about the penalty in the Italy match the same way I felt about the goal that Japan scored in our first match. The referee really did seem to get it wrong, but there is no point whinging about it if you do not put the ball in other teams goal at least once.

    We did that against Japan which made the ref’s decision moot. Italy only had 10 men and we failed to score. Agonising, but a fair result in the end.

    Congratulations to the Socceroos and Australia Soccer in general. This has been an amazing effort from everyone involved. May it be just the start of a frequent and glorious involvement at the World Cup.

  9. El Poppin
    June 28th, 2006 at 08:20 | #9

    Well if memory serves right, Italy has not lost a match during normal playing time since the late eighties (or nineties – can’t be bothered checking it out), so that was true to form. Italy plays defensive and if you can’t score with one extra man then perhaps we should not complain. All in all I think its fair to say that Australia is not in the top 10 league yet but certainly we were not in the 44th place either. It seems to me that there are about six teams that are way out in front and then there is a bunch of about 10 teams that fairly close and I think that this is where Australia belongs for now.
    On the quality of refereeing that needs serious looking into. If the teams are continually improving so should the refereeing. I would be interested to know whether there is a correlation between the potential audience number for a team and the number of fouls that team gives away or receives.

  10. Bring Back EP at LP
    June 28th, 2006 at 10:07 | #10

    in all the matches thus far this is the ONLY match DECIDED by the referee.
    In all other matches bad decisions did not decide the match as they evened out.

    It wasn’t a penalty. look at it carefully. He bit Neil by beating him at an angle but continued to run straight.
    It is rather easy to see a dive and a foul because of this.

    Still this is why sport and football in particular is such a good game.
    It enables to grow as a person.

  11. Tom N.
    June 28th, 2006 at 13:04 | #11

    People who think that World Cup games should be decided on merit, that the goals should be widenned to increase scoring so that the “best” team wins, and that video refs and other technology should be introduced to reduce “errors”, are arguably missing the point. The beautiful game generates so much drama because of these features; its knife-edge scoring system, its cruel inequities, the theatrics of the players, the fallibility of the referees. As one commentator noted last week, a goal in AFL is like a kiss on the lips; a goal in soccer is like an orgasm. Even a nil all draw can generate 90 minutes of tension, and even a team that has been outscored by 3 goals in the first 80 minutes still has a chance with 10 to go.

  12. June 28th, 2006 at 13:52 | #12

    Tom – spot on!

    Spiros, are you suggesting that it was wrong to select Viduka? Or are you of the view we needed two dedicated strikers?

  13. Razor
    June 28th, 2006 at 15:18 | #13

    Thank goodness the cultural vandalism is over.

    And just in time for the greatest annual sporting event in the world – Le Tour – also brought to us by SBS.

    Go Aussies, in particular Cadel and Robbie. Ulrich v Basso – now this will be a truly memorable battle.

  14. Mike
    June 28th, 2006 at 15:59 | #14

    I think the referee is being unfairly lambasted here, depends on your view, from one replay angle you would say fair penalty it looked like a deliberate obstruction but from another camera another angle it was clearly a slip and then fall-over with no intentional interference. I guess the refs view was the former. I thought our backs, centres and goal area were and are world class, good as they come, but the fronts weak in comparison to the Brazilians or Italians, we just do not have the persazz there and I was dissappointed at how our ball striking here seemed weak compared to either Italy or Brazil we had position but no punch, Bresciano was well off his best here for some reason.

    Great effort by the Australians, here’s to our Cup win in the 2010 World Cup. It will be great, this was good warm up, now we know what to expect next time round. Thanks Guus as well.

  15. rossco
    June 28th, 2006 at 16:05 | #15

    If the situation had been reversed and Australia had been awarded a penalty shot with seconds left to play we would have declined to take it because we are such good sports we wouldn’t want to win such an important game on the back of a referee’s mistake.
    Any one believe that? No, I didn’t think so. Just get over it, life is full of what ifs and maybes.
    Oh well I guess it will be another 4 years before I bother watching another game of soccer. I can’t even get excited about the FA Cup final any more

  16. peter robertson
    June 28th, 2006 at 18:14 | #16

    thank god we out of the farce – the referees are like fifa puppet masters ensuring the rich boy nations and soccer royalty always get through – we got robbed by a wimpy dive by a slinky ner no gooder. Could anyone imagine a soccer player except Mark Viduka, Roy Keane and Eric cantona lasting more than 2 minutes on the MCG.

  17. Spiros
    June 28th, 2006 at 19:01 | #17

    “Could anyone imagine a soccer player except Mark Viduka, Roy Keane and Eric cantona lasting more than 2 minutes on the MCG.”

    Vinnie Jones

  18. June 28th, 2006 at 19:34 | #18

    Ah well, there is always the third State of Origin game to come. Let’s hope the referee only makes mistakes in Queensland’s favour – only they won’t be mistakes, they will be correct and just decisions!!!

  19. Con
    June 28th, 2006 at 23:50 | #19

    “Could anyone imagine a soccer player except Mark Viduka, Roy Keane and Eric cantona lasting more than 2 minutes on the MCG.�

    Hm lets see…. how about Gennaro Gatuso, Senederos, Bruce (ex man u defender), Alan Shearer, Wise, Gabriel Heinze, Jans Lehmann etc etc etc etc

    I mean really mate, please do your homework on soccer.

  20. Bring Back EP at LP
    June 29th, 2006 at 08:40 | #20

    No Vinnie jones would be in Gaol not the MCG

  21. June 29th, 2006 at 11:17 | #21

    “this seemed to me to be a pretty soft foul (maybe others can give a better-informed view on this). ”

    I heard from someone who heard from somebody who knows something about soccer (thats how it goes in Australia) that when you try a move like that that it is a 50/50 chance whether the referee will award a penalty because it is hard for them to tell and they need to make a decision.

    So everyone knows this and therefore we should blame the tripper rather than the referee as he knew that that move would have a 50% chance of losing Australia the game.

  22. FDB
    June 29th, 2006 at 11:50 | #22

    “As one commentator noted last week, a goal in AFL is like a kiss on the lips; a goal in soccer is like an orgasm.”

    Excellent analogy! Although a penalty in dubious circumstances is like a no-foreplay, up-against-the-wall-in-an-alley, perhaps-not-quite-consensual root. Whereas I think we’d all prefer a build-up, some quality technique and a bit of love.

    Call me a romantic if you will.

  23. sdfc
    June 29th, 2006 at 14:41 | #23

    Footy and soccer have got at least one thing in common. Its always the umpires fault.

  24. Rob
    July 8th, 2006 at 23:32 | #24

    While the Lucky Country didn’t seem lucky in the way it all ended, lets remember that there was a fair bit of good fortune in the lead up – like the Penalty shootout against Uruguay, 3 goals in the dying 8 minutes against Japan, and a late goal in the Croatia game. Some would call it skill others luck. The luck score was probably closer to 3-1 in Australia’s favour.

    One consolation is that if we had overachieved – ie got to the Semi’s or Quarters in this World Cup every other World Cup in the future may have seemed like a dissappointment! At least this way we can focus on the quarters in 2010, the semis in 2014 and the cup in 2020.

  25. July 10th, 2006 at 14:51 | #25

    What else more than this , A BIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIG CONGRATS to Italy. Three cheers for them.

  26. July 12th, 2006 at 12:45 | #26

    Support fight of Australian Seamen
    against Race to the Bottom

    Here’s some links :

    Fight to save seafaring jobs ruled ‘illegal’ by IRC

    Australian Seamen strike against replacement by foreign crew

    I suggest messages of support be sent to the Maritime Union of Australia.

  27. July 12th, 2006 at 13:04 | #27

    Was it you or Ernestine that had a go at me for commenting off-topic? From memory, it was both of you.

  28. July 12th, 2006 at 13:39 | #28

    Andrew (and Ernestine),

    Firstly my apologies for having dropped out.

    Secondly, I now see that you are correct. I had mistakenly thought that this thread for the thread entitled “The Servant Problem”.

    (Continued here.)

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