Pablo Bateson is in Qatar as part of the travelling Socceroos support, as he continues a fascinating journey to attend all of Australia’s FIFA World Cup qualifiers for Brazil 2014.
Phew ... what an amazing come back to rescue our FIFA World Cup qualification campaign.
Just when we thought that perhaps our collective dreams for Brazil 2014 might be shattered, Australia once again showed its composure and resilience under pressure to deliver the goods.
Our estimated 400 or so supporters in the Australian section witnessed first-hand just what makes international football so special with drama, tension and finally joy that just can’t be scripted.
The game had probably the lowest overall crowd figure (officially 2,183) of any Socceroos’ qualifier for many decades. That we seemed to outnumber the Iraqi fans was maybe surprising, however the Aussie expat community in the Gulf region seems to readily embrace and respond to our important national team games.
The build up to this evening’s game had been low key, and our pre-game meet-up for lunch was enhanced by a chance encounter and delightful length conversation with former Socceroos’ coach Pim Verbeek.
Conditions at the Grand Hamad Stadium of the Al-Arabi Sports Club were almost ideal, with a light breeze, a temperature of 31 degrees and humidity less than 50 per cent.
Frustratingly, the Socceroos failed to capitalise on several clear cut chances in the first hour. Iraq taking the lead so late in the game after creating so little up to that point left our supporters stunned.
Yet with fresh legs through substitutions it did not take long for renewed hope to be found, as “Super Tim” once again struck with one of his classic headers.
Archie’s well-directed header from Tommy Oar’s fine cross completed a magnificent comeback to all but finish off the deflated Iraqis and their fans.
With the final whistle the away section of Australian fans went into raptures - sustained, colourful and loud. Soon afterwards the squad saluted the contribution of our supporters.
In our midst had been injured Socceroos defender Sasha Ognenovski (now with Qatari club Umm-Salal in Doha) and his young family. It was nice to see him choose to watch from the terraces rather than the VIP section.
There’s nothing quite like that winning feeling, and this was reflected in our exchanges just outside the stadium with a very happy bunch of Australia players, and a very proud and relieved Holger Osieck.
The Socceroos’ capacity to once again bounce back indicates that they are back on track to be able to create their own destiny in this tough qualification journey.
We wish Iraq well for its next games although it will now take an enormous turnaround to claw back into qualification contention.
About half an hour after the game, we had a wonderfully enlightening and positive exchange with two highly knowledgeable Iraqi supporters. They were clearly pointing the finger at the Iraq FA for the madness of playing a friendly against Brazil in Sweden last Thursday as a major factor in their team’s loss.
While there will be some post-game celebrations into the night, we are not getting too far ahead of ourselves.
Obviously, there is a need to consolidate by focussing ahead to the next game in late March against Oman and backing up with a home win at ANZ Stadium. Nothing can be taken for granted until we secure a top-two spot in the group.
The Socceroos need our unconditional support to get even stronger for the remainder of the qualification campaign for the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals.
I’ll next be posting a report for The World Game in early June from Japan. Until then, enjoy your football at whatever level you are involved.
Karabukspor avoided the drop thanks to a 3-2 home win over Fenerbahce in the Super Lig while Galatasaray celebrated its title win with a closing victory over Trabzonspor.