Anything is possible for the Socceroos
Germany, France and Spain the favourites to take out the tournament11 June 2018 | Pablo Bateson
I write this from a small café in Chiang Mai, one of the thousands of coffee shops in Thailand’s second biggest city. In a beautiful setting nestled below Doi Suthep (mountain), this thriving and yet relaxing tourism destination is also home to a large expats community and a decent professional football team in the top half of Thai League 2. I have already written about why I will not be travelling to the World Cup, but I feel for a small and yet significant number of Socceroos fans who have been badly let down by the Russian authorities to have their previously approved Fan IDs cancelled only two weeks out from the tournament. This unfolding news story was first reported exclusively by Football Today.
Once again it is the lack of an open, just and transparent process that has marginalised and discriminated against fans, including one loyal supporter Aaron Camm with a disability and dependent upon a wheelchair. As for any appeals process against the decision, bureaucracy seems to be stifling any genuine potential or opportunities for late reprieves to affected fans.
There have already been so many previews and expert columns in our game of opinions about Australia’s opponents, possible outcomes and predictions for Group C. Some impressive background reading is also available covering all eight groups and 32 participating teams in the tournament over 32 days. For example, I enjoyed The Guardian newspaper's online guide.
Football Today also has a special World Cup section with some terrific pieces, growing daily.
There are live broadcast venues organised by the Socceroos Active Support (SAS) group across Australia and overseas, including New York and London. After a return from Bangkok to Sydney on the weekend, I will be mixing it up for live TV viewing at a range of venues.
If Australia can progress to the knock out stages, then anything is possible such is the mentality, organisation and now increasing self-belief of our senior men’s national team.
I believe the strongest chances for the tournament are with Spain, Germany and France in that order. Belgium have been on the rise for many years and yet, interestingly, a relatively ‘low’ population nation has not won a title since 1950. Portugal surprised most to win Euro 2016; however a step up from that is most unlikely.
Brazil seems to have rediscovered its ‘joga bonito’ and the Selecao will seek to become the first South American side to win the title in Europe since they did with a 17-year-old Pele in Sweden six decades ago. Let us hope in particular that superstar striker Neymar bounces back from a recent enforced lay-off. He deserves success like no other after a premature tragic injury departure from the 2014 finals.
The beaten finalists in 2014, Argentina, cannot simply rely on a maturing Lionel Messi to inspire them once again, and La Albiceleste may well prove to be a major disappointment.
The host nation Russia may just scrape out of their group, yet there is little to give confidence for a successful campaign beyond the round of 16 at best. England comes into these finals with perhaps the least expectation since its star-studded side gave the competition a shake at Italia 90. In the face of diplomatic tensions between the two nations and concerns of safety for travelling English fans, the Three Lions may still mount a sustained run deep into the knock out stages.
Of our four other fellow AFC teams, Iran appeals as having a good chance of causing some upsets. Although Team Melli is drawn in a very strong group that includes Portugal and Spain, they are capable of stretching their opponents and will also benefit from much support from local ‘neutrals’.
Whether you are amongst the many thousands of Socceroos supporters on the terraces in the largest land area country in the world, or one of the millions who watch on TV at home in Australia and elsewhere, enjoy a rollercoaster ride that only the World Cup can bring.
socceroos, 2018 world cup, #russia2018