Because this is a World Cup year, I have decided to countdown to the tournament by providing a short soccer/fitness related preview of each of the 32 participating nations. In this installment, I will look at Australia, underdogs in Group B, which contains Spain, Holland, and Chile. Australia play their first match against Chile on June 13th.
The “Socceroos”, as the Australian National Team have been nicknamed, have a unique and controversial history. In 2003, following Australia’s failure to qualify for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, the Australian FA, at the time called “Soccer Australia”, faced allegations of fraud and mismanagement. Soccer Australia commissioned an independent inquiry known as the Crawford Report as a result of the Australian Government’s threat to withdraw funding to the sport. Among the key consequences of the Crawford Report were:
- The Australian FA was renamed, from “Soccer Australia” to “Football Federation Australia” (FFA)
- The phrase “old soccer, new football” was coined to emphasize this change
- The FFA underwent a reconstitution, appointing new leadership and focusing their efforts on developing the game from the grass-roots to the elite levels
- The Australian Government provided approximately $15 million to the newly formed FFA in 2004
- In 2006, Football Federation Australia moved from the “Oceanic Football Confederation” (OFC) to the “Asian Football Confederation” (AFC)
This last change, in particular, has had a huge influence on the success of the Australian National Soccer Team in recent years. As a result of the move, the Socceroos were able to compete in World Cup qualifying matches against much stronger National Team competition from across Asia, including Japan, Korea, Iran, and China, to name a few. Furthermore, the move also allowed Australian A-League (Australia’s national soccer league) clubs to compete in the Asian Champion’s League club competition, thereby strengthening the skills and fitness of many of their top domestic-based players.
The results of the changes instituted following the Crawford Report speak for themselves: Australia has qualified (out of the AFC) for each one of the 3 FIFA World Cups sine 2003 (Germany 2006, South Africa 2010, and Brazil 2014) and even earned a place in the knockout round in 2006, losing in extra time to eventual World Cup winners Italy. Australia’s teams have been competitive in all major tournaments since 2006, and have clearly benefited from the huge step up in competition at the club and National levels. At Brazil 2014, the Socceroos will need all of the competitiveness they have to get out of a group that includes the 2010 World Cup winners Spain, their 2010 final opponent Holland, and strong South American side Chile. We will have to wait see what happens in 2 months’ time.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.