The Socceroos came away from the spectacular 2014 FIFA World Cup without a win but with their heads held high.
It was the goal that stopped the nation and the world in the tournament that gripped the globe. When Tim Cahill rifled has now-famous left-foot volley into the Netherlands’ goal in the 21st minute of their monumental Group B match-up in Porto Alegre, Brazil on Thursday, June 19, football’s Richter Scale was rocked worldwide.
Cahill’s phenomenal goal was one of those rare moments in world sport that got everyone talking non-stop, even those (relatively few) who weren’t engrossed in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
With an estimated television audience of 3.5 billion worldwide – 871,000 of whom watched in Australia despite the game’s 2am kickoff – it’s safe to say that those (again, relatively few) who didn’t watch the Australia-versus-Netherlands game heard about it from friends, work colleagues, and on radio and television news broadcasts for days to come. And, yes, the ‘Twittersphere’ ran rampant.
For the thousands who flocked to Hyundai’s Fan Parks worldwide – including the perpetually packed Fan Park at Sydney’s Star City Casino – Cahill’s stunning strike was a massive highlight of an incredible tournament.
Hyundai has supported the FIFA World Cup since 1999 and before Brazil announced that it would extend its support as Automotive Official Partner to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup, thereby also guaranteeing its involvement in what turned out to be the hugely popular Hyundai Fan Parks.
In the end even Tim Cahill’s wonder goal in what turned out to be his final World Cup game wasn’t enough to keep the brave Socceroos’ Brazil 2014 campaign alive. But the team – ranked 60th in the world – showed outstanding courage against incredible odds while earning newfound respect among the World Cup faithful. Indeed, even banking giant Goldman Sachs, which crunched the statistics back to 1960, had the Socceroos as rank outsiders – with odds of 1500-to-one to even progress to the second round.
However, it’s fair to say that the world sat up and took notice when the Socceroos held their own against Chile in their first match in front of 40,000-plus fans at Cuiaba’s Pattanal Arena. Yes, they were eventually beaten 3-1 by the significantly more highly ranked Chile but their performance was inspired, with a surprising brand of attacking football climaxing in a game-changing header, again by Tim Cahill in the 35th minute.
In fact, Chile – one of the favourites and the team Australia had frightened the life out of in its first game – went close to causing a huge tournament upset, finally losing 3-2 in a dramatic penalty shootout that saw host nation Brazil advance to the 2014 FIF World Cup quarter-finals.
When it came to the Socceroos’ second match the team definitely looked confident. The Netherlands had already beaten reigning champions Spain in its opening 2014 World Cup game but had to come from 2-1 down to win against Australia. The resulting 3-2 scoreline – Australia’s second goal having come from a penalty kick by team captain Mile Jedinak in the 54th minute – showed just how competitive, and proud, the Socceroos had become.
The loss meant Australia was out of Brazil 2014 and that its remaining match against Spain was a dead rubber. But perhaps more significant was the yellow-card penalty against Tim Cahill that meant he wouldn’t feature in the team’s final game – a game in which Australia simply was outclassed, going down 3-0.
Yes, their heroic involvement in the 2014 FIFA World Cup so proudly supported by Hyundai was big news, especially in Australia. But there was so much more to this year’s Cup, including the emergence of the USA as a new power in The World Game. The fact that the US team went down to Belgium in the tournament’s 16th round will do nothing to diminish what surely will mark an upsurge of interest in soccer in one of the world’s most powerful sporting nations. And that can only be good news for football for years to come.
The Socceroos came away from Brazil without a point to show for their courageous efforts but with heads held high. Their relatively freshly appointed coach and former national player Angelos ‘Ange’ Postecoglou’s often-criticised selection process during his fast-tracked build-up to Brazil had been vindicated.
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