Australia's Tim Cahill after scoring his first-half goal on Saturday morning.
Australia's Tim Cahill after scoring his first-half goal on Saturday morning.

AUSTRALIA didn’t open its World Cup campaign with a win on Saturday morning, but boy, you’ve got to respect the fighting spirit shown by the Socceroos against Chile.

When it comes to the sports I enjoy watching the most and closely follow, soccer doesn’t rank towards the top of the list.

I’m more into Aussie Rules, cricket, basketball and pro wrestling - yes, it’s "sports" entertainment.

But like many Australians who over the next month will go from only a passing interest in soccer to infactuated by the round ball game during the World Cup, I was up early on Saturday morning to tune into the Australia-Chile clash.

Actually, I slept through the kick-off and woke up at 8:10am, and by that time Chile had already scored the opening goal of the match through Alexis Sanchez.

Two minutes later when Jorge Valdivia added a second goal for Chile, the thought of going back to bed to catch a few extra Saturday morning zzzzsss was looking enticing.

A 0-2 scoreline inside the first 15 minutes of Australia’s opening game did nothing to dismiss all the pre World Cup talk that the Socceroos would be in for a hellish tournament following their draw in the “group of death” alongside Chile and 2010 World Cup finalists Netherlands and Spain.

But when it comes to the fighting spirit of Australians - no matter what the sport - it should never be under-estimated.

And the Socceroos showed that on Saturday morning in the way they fought back from their horror start to provide a genuine challenge to Chille.

When Soceroos' forward Tim Cahill (pictured) headed a goal at the 35-minute mark, I leapt off the couch and gave a fist pump just as passionately as I did for David Zaharakis' Anzac Day goal for Essendon against Collingwood in 2009.

Not only did Cahill’s goal bring the Socceroos back into the contest on the scoreboard, it also stuck it up all those who said Australia wouldn’t score at all during the World Cup.

Along with those fortunate Aussies to be in the stands among the crowd of 40,000 at Cuiaba’s Arena Pantanal, I rode every attacking thrust in the second half as the Socceroos’ constantly threatened to add an equalising second goal into the back of the onion bag.

You only had to see the vision of Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli - a look-a-like of Masterchef judge George Colambaris - on the sidelines to get a sense of just how genuine a threat the underdogs were posing. 

But the Socceroos’ second-half opportunities went unrewarded and when Chile’s Jean Beausejour added a third goal in stoppage time, that was the heartbreaker for the Aussies.

So there’s no dream start to the World Cup for the Socceroos like in 2006 when they beat Japan 3-1 in their opener, but I’ll be back on the couch to do it all again at 2am on Thursday when Australia takes on the Netherlands.



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