Last week, in Coffs Harbour Australia, the first stage of four was completed in the Oceania World Cup qualifying campaign.
Australia reserves – No Kewell No Viduka No Schwarzer No Zelic No Okon No Laziridis No Bosnich etc etc – successfully negotiated their way to a likely play off with New Zealand in June, by scoring 66 goals in 4 matches and conceding none. We all saw the results and laughed as Oz hammered teams by 31 and 22 goal margins. For some of us it brought back memories of that day back in 1981 when the All Whites put 13 put Fiji. Against American Samoa, Marconi’s Kiwi-born Archie Thompson scored 13 on his own.
But what are the effects of such results???
For a small confederation fighting to gain acceptance on the world stage, the results were a disaster. After all can anyone really take Oceania seriously with such results? We (OFC) are a laughing stock. Yes, I know big results happen all over the place… Belgium put 10 past San Marino and Iran scored 19 against Guam just to name a couple, but these confederations have tough competition at the top level. In what is known worldwide as the smallest & weakest confederation, it was detrimental to our image at a crucial time.
At the moment we are in with a real chance of being allocated a direct qualifying spot for Germany 2006. FIFA spokesman Keith Cooper has gone on official record as saying it is a “done deal”. That might settle the issue for some, but I have seen many a “done deal” fall apart before, and I can’t see the other FIFA confederations lining up to give us one of their places. Ideally, Oceania needed a qualifying campaign which
- was closely fought – because it attracts interest and gives the impression that there is some strength in the region and
- had – dare I say it – Australia qualifying because they are the one team which Oceania can market successfully. The players mentioned above are household names around the world and the world can identify them.
New Zealand are currently not capable of beating the 5th placed South American country to qualify. Australia are. If we want some good press for Oceania in order to secure a direct spot, it is best that Oz qualifies and goes on to perform well at the finals. Short term pain, long term gain if you like. Oz have achieved some great results on the world stage in the last couple of years. Oceania needed to turn this to their advantage. Sadly the chance may have been missed. Here’s hoping that FIFA don’t decide that we are a “one team” confederation not worth a spot.
Its already been said but I’ll say it anyway. We need a preliminary round as Africa and CONCACAF have. The 8 island nations play off with the top 2 joining Oz and New Zealand in a final group played on a home and away basis. Fiji have shown they can be competitive. Perhaps Vanuatu can too. The end result would be a reasonably competitive final group. I expect Oz would win it but it wouldn’t be the stroll last week was.
And to the rest of the world we wouldn’t look like complete numpties.