I was a fool on Friday night. A tired fool.
I, like many other football fans in this country, woke up early on Saturday morning to find out who Australia would be playing at the World Cup.
We were killed by the draw four years ago. The infamous ‘group of death’ in Brazil gave us no chance of making the last 16 before a ball was kicked.
Don’t get me wrong, we made a good showing of ourselves at the last World Cup. We pushed Chile into injury time, and were leading eventual third-place winners The Netherlands in the second half.
In fact, it was reigning world champions Spain that we struggled against the most, and they just happened to go home at the same time as we did.
This year is different. If Australia play to the level that we’re capable of, we’ll be in all three matches up to our eyeballs.
In case you missed the news, Australia has been drawn to play France, Peru, and Denmark in next year’s World Cup in Russia.
We open with a match against France in Kazan, which just happens to be our base for the tournament.
The match will also be perfect for an Australian audience, as the 8pm kickoff on a Saturday Night will have millions in front of their televisions.
We then play Denmark in Samara, before the clash with Peru in Sochi.
France is obviously the biggest threat in the group. They won the 1998 World Cup on their home soil, and then made the final of the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
However, their last two World Cup’s have been less than successful, including the capitulation in 2010.
That’s all behind them now, as this will be one of the most talented squads they will take to a World Cup since that 1998 triumph.
Striker Antoine Griezmann is Atletico Madrid’s marquee player, and would command more than $150 million on the open market. They also have this kid named Kylian Mbappe, who was sold for 180 million euros over the winter.
I don’t think anyone is suggesting that Australia will beat France. Our best hope against them is a dour, scoreless draw.
Then it gets interesting. I genuinely believe that Australia can win their other two matches.
Denmark are very much like us, in the sense they have a few very good players, and a number of serviceable players that do a job.
Christian Eriksen is the danger man here. The Tottenham Hotspur superstar was outstanding in their qualifying win over the Republic of Ireland, scoring a hat-trick to lead his team to the World Cup.
They’re also tough to score on. Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, son of Manchester United legend Peter, won the Premier League with Leicester City only 18 months ago.
Peru is probably the most winnable game here. They beat New Zealand in the inter-continental playoff while we were playing Honduras.
Peru are made up of a number of players that ply their trade in South America. In fact, only five members of their most recent squad played in Europe.
We’ll probably need a minimum of five points to qualify from the group, meaning that we must win at least one game.
We’ve been lucky enough to be given a very manageable group. Let’s hope we can take advantage of that.
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