Friday, June 23, 2006

Australia 2 Croatia 2

If you haven't seen it yet, and still can somehow, you should watch the second half of this one just for shits and giggles. Oh, and some genuine nail-biting stuff.

With Australia needing only a tie to advance and Croatia needing the win, this game turned into pretty much a wild scrum that looked akin to something the Aussies might enjoy while playing rugby or Australian Rules Football. It was far from pretty - actually, it was straight-up ugly - but it was also riveting stuff.

Croatia scored first in only the second minute, sending Australian hearts everywhere into a state of shock, until they equalized. Then Croatia went ahead again, and yet again all of Australia, which takes its sports extremely seriously (its admirable, really), surely went into a state of national panic.

So the Aussies came at the Croats. Again and again and again. They spent much of the second half throwing bodies and crosses into the Croatian box with reckless abandon. It was almost reminiscent of a Hail Mary pass in an endzone, except it went on and on, over and over. There were no pretty build-ups, no cleverly breaking down the defense, no one-on-one daring. Just an endless state of desperation as the Aussies pushed forward and the Croats had their backs pinned, almost to a man, practically against their own goalline. It was frantic, furious, and mesmerizing.

Then Harry Kewell equalized. The Aussies had what they needed. And thus the pandemonium shifted.

Now it was Croatia which desperately needed a goal, and just like the Aussies, they sent everyone forward with little consideration for defense. Defense, essentially, was meaningless now. Only that one, elusive goal mattered. Now the entire game turned into a wild scrum in the Aussie box. The world had shifted. Lunacy. Craziness. Croatia came close several times, but unlike Australia, they couldn't find that one miraculous goal and time ran out and thus they are going home.

I have to say, I like this Aussie team. To be blunt, they remind me of what I wanted from the American team. Much like the U.S., Australia doesn't have the most talent, it doesn't have a stable of world class players, it won't beat you with pure skill or imagination. But the Aussies play with heart, determination, a relentless work ethic, and a limitless desire to make something out of nothing. What they lack in capability and aesthetics, they make up for with intangibles and grit. I can respect that. I would have liked to have seen the U.S. demonstrate as much. It's amazing how far a little grit can get you.

You know, like into the second round.


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