This article was written by Melissa Muscat.
The FIFA World Cup, NRL State of Origin and Wimbledon, what a week this is shaping up to be sports fans! So much excitement in the sporting world and the next week will bring it new heights. Get the espresso ready or put your leave in from work today for Monday, you’ll thank me for the prior notice.
Two weeks ago, the country saw NSW Blues take out the 2018 State of Origin Series, after four long years. And what a feeling that was. I had the privilege of attending my first ever Origin game, after a lifetime of living and breathing sport. A wonderful experience was expected, but to witness the series win after years in exile was special. The Origin atmosphere is something else and the bragging rights have been rife over the past fortnight, as they should be. Simply the Best in the words of Tina Turner. The final step will be all of NSW cheering on the Blues to a whitewash Wednesday night, and what a celebration that is promising to be. Congrats NSW Blues, your state is proud.
What a tournament the Russia World Cup 2018 has been. I’ve been fortunate enough to be chosen as an Australian representative of a FIFA fan movement covering live sites in Sydney for the tournament. We’ve been asked three things; favourite moment at the World Cup, two players who have impressed and three words to best describe the current World Cup. In order for me personally, Ronaldo’s hattrick against Spain; Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) and Kylian Mbappe (France); and exciting, open and inclusive. If you have been following the World Cup, you’ll know it has been an exciting competition with upsets aplenty. Let this sink in soccer fanatics, we are about to witness a World Cup final without the likes of Brazil, Germany, Spain, Italy or The Netherlands. That in itself is worth waking up at a ridiculous hour for. Wednesday morning 4 am (AEST), will see France versus Belgium, and Thursday at the same time, England take on Croatia. The winner of these two games will meet in the World Cup Final Monday morning at 1am. I believe the winner of the France, Belgium match will take out the tournament. Possibly France with their finals experience but I believe Belgium are the in form team at the moment. Before the World Cup kicked off, I placed a small bet on both France and England to win. One with my head and one with my heart. I’ll be happy if either of these two win, but after the Socceroos, England and The Netherlands are my favourite teams so I’ll be cheering on England to take the final prize.
Our nation can be proud of the Socceroos efforts this World Cup. We lost only by one late goal to the semi finalists and potential finalists France. To put it into perspective for those not totally into Soccer, the French national team have the highest value in the tournament, worth approximately two billion dollars. The Socceroos combined worth is 50 million dollars. There is a pretty big imbalance there to only be separated by one goal a few weeks back. Daniel Arzani and Trent Sainsbury starred for our national team in all three matches. The appointment of a national coach at the helm, paid dividends to the performance of the team as a whole. A much improved display was seen under Dutchman Bert van Marwijk. The disappointing factor for me though was Tim Cahill not getting game time in the second match against Denmark. I believe, and I know I am not alone, that if Cahill had played in the second half of that match and scored, we would have went into game three against Peru with a whole lot of confidence and different mindset. I was disappointed Cahill wasn’t utilised earlier especially with Arzani’s creativeness. Regardless of age, Cahill is currently our best prospect of a goal scorer. That had to be noted by the coach. Anyway we’re left wondering what could’ve been and we now welcome Graham Arnold to the new national coaching position.
One thing I’ve witnessed over this past month is that the World Cup has brought Sydney back to life. Having watched at the Sports Bar inside the Star Casino for quite a few of the matches, including non Australian games, and it has been packed to the rafters. Last Saturday morning saw France take on Uruguay and four hours later, Brazil played Belgium. At 12.10am when I arrived, there was a queue to get into The Star and the Sports Bar was closed due to capacity crowds. The two Australia games I watched there also saw the Sports Bar closed one and a half hours prior to kick off. It shows two things. Firstly, soccer is not forgotten in Australia. Now is the time to strike for FFA and A League clubs to promote our local game. As the Socceroos commercial goes ‘I was made in the A League’. Look at our newest hero, Daniel Arzani. The youngest player of the entire tournament who only burst onto the A League scene a few months ago. He was the stand out for our national team. Many good things can happen locally if the game is promoted right. Secondly, Sydney knows how to come alive, given the opportunity. Just look at Vivid each year. People in Sydney are screaming out to enjoy our amazing city without a curfew and want places to go after midnight. Clover Moore, Gladys Berejiklian and whoever else runs this city, make it happen please … or give me a go. I have some wonderful ideas for Sydney given the opportunity.
Finally we have Wimbledon. It looks like the top two are once again in fine form. Could we see another Federer, Nadal final? Now if we do, this is of course huge but it also poses an even bigger headache for Britain should England make the World Cup final. Most would know the exhilaration of Federer and Wimbledon, but possibly even more show stopping than that, is the prospect that football/soccer living England, for only the second time in history, will play in the final only two hours after the commencing time of the Wimbledon final. This means the tennis match would surely run into the start time of the soccer match and overlap for a large portion. I am biting my nails at the dilemma, what on earth will the Brits do should they face this predicament? All England Tennis Club boss Richard Lewis has ruled out moving the starting time for Wimbledon, so some serious English sports fans have some tough decisions to make. Forget Brexit, this is the biggest English headline in decades.
For us Aussies it’s not so bad, we can go to a sports bar and watch both games on screens side by side, we will just be needing an early night Monday to catch up on the sleep many of us have been deprived of over the last month. Maybe an afternoon sleep Sunday as well to keep us awake for a possible epic Wimbledon final and a potential extra time, penalty shoot out World Cup Final. Let’s Go NSW Blues, Federer and England!