On the eve of the World Cup Draw, du Nord (best soccer blog going) had a link to this amusing article from The Sydney Morning Herald. Apparently, Australians (ranked 49th in the world; US is 8th) are offended by the fact that US coach, Bruce Arena, said that the field of 32 teams in this World Cup is stronger than in the last World Cup because the two weakest teams Australia and Trinidad & Tobago are stronger than Saudi Arabia and China were in 2002.
Here are some of the choice quotes:
The article even got a quote from Dwight Yorke who is now playing for a team in Sydney (geez, has he ever slipped):
Foster laughed when told of Arena's comments. "I just wonder where he's coming from," he said. "He's got the right to voice his opinion, but it's laughable to suggest we rate that lowly. He'll have to eat his words if we come up against the US. There's no issue we can beat them. We can beat any team on our day."
Slater said he would be delighted if Australia and the US were grouped together. "I would rather the Socceroos got into a group with the US than any of the other teams that may be ranked in the top tier," he said. "And that's not being disrespectful, that's based on fact.
"We have nothing to fear from the US. I would back us against the US - any game, anywhere.
"Our squad has a lot more quality than theirs and I would back [Socceroos coach] Guus Hiddink against any coach.
"I think [Arena's] comments might just show what he knows about the real world. I find his comments naive, but it doesn't surprise me, coming from a US coach. I mean, where has he been?"
Trinidad & Tobago star Yorke last night bristled at Arena's suggestion. "The manager of the American team is entitled to his opinion," he said. "Hopefully when he comes up against one of us we can shove the words right back in his face. America was in our [qualifying] group. They know they were very fortunate to beat us. They are not a brilliant team like they are making out to be … we've been playing them for years, they are not that special."Just to be clear, the US beat T&T in both qualifying matches and in the 16 matches between the two countries over the last 20 years, the US has won 11, drawn 3 and lost 2 while outscoring T&T 21-9. Yorke is delusional to say we were fortunate to beat them.
It was probably a stupid thing for Arena to say until he was certain we wouldn't be facing Australia in the first round, but the fact is that Australia hasn't been in a World Cup since 1974 and in that cup they finished last in their group without even scoring a goal. For the last few cups, they have failed to qualify out of the easiest confederation, Oceania. While most countries around the world have to slug it out with other confederation heavyweights for about two years to qualify, Australia just has to be better than New Zealand and then beat the fifth best team in South America in a home-and-home playoff to qualify.
Australia has some very good European-based players and the team may prove to be better than Saudi Arabia or some of the new African teams but they have a lot to prove before they start getting uppity over Arena's comment. Commentators around the world used to say really nasty crap about the US team (and some still do) but we have at least proven ourselves somewhat by qualifying for five straight World Cups, going to the quarterfinals in the last cup and becoming the top team in our region. Australia needs to do a lot of hard work before they start demanding respect.
By the way, the Aussies have dug up the penalty spot where John Aloisi scored his spot kick last month to beat Uruguay and sent the Socceroos to the World Cup. They are going to auction off the clump of dirt with an opening bid of $100,000.
Yeh, that sounds like the behavior of a soccer team that wasn't surprised by their own success.
Oh, it could be a lot of fun if we draw Australia tomorrow.