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Bittersweet for Socceroos.

Brave, bold, brilliant at times, but not good enough. the Socceroos thrill and disappoint in Porto Allegre.

The reviews are in. The Brazilians loved how The Socceroos took in The Dutch.

The reviews are in. The Brazilians loved how The Socceroos took in The Dutch.

Click the link to read my report.

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Socceroos Get Ready To Run Through The Jungle.

Everyone across the globe is ready for The World Cup.

It's a pity Cuiaba isn't.

Sign O The Times.. Cuiaba stadium days before The World Cup begins .

Sign O The Times.. Cuiaba stadium days before The World Cup begins.

 

In fact, when you arrive in this Brazilian frontier town you'd be forgiven for thinking Godzilla had stomped down the main road leaving monster potholes.

All around us the city looks like a work in progress.

 Tall building construction covets the skyline. The light rail promised to ferry passengers from the airport for The World Cup resembles a toddlers discarded train set. 

Where Australia announces its festivals of sport with banners and bunting for every available flagpole and shop window, Cuiaba is impressively unadorned. Not a flag or banner to be seen, just endless building sites, dirt roads and traffic jams.

The social dividend promised by the bandits at FIFA for hosting The World Cup have clearly bypassed Cuiaba.

Don't get me wrong. Brazilians love their football with an operatic passion, it's just that they're too busy with the serious business of living to make too much fuss about it. 

When it comes to game day, that's a different matter. 

This dust bowl town planted in the geographic heart of South America - there's a monument in town proclaiming to be the spot - will come to life with football pumping through its veins like it was living its last day on earth. 

It's the sort of mentality Ange Postecoglou's Socceroos must harness if their World Cup Campaign isn't to end before it begins out here on the edge of The Amazon.

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Play like there's no tomorrow. Disregard history and reputation. Get your hands dirty in the heat and the dust. Go to work with the intent of getting a job done.

 Be the player you want to be rather than the players they say you are.

Shock the world.

These are the themes Postecoglou has woven into the DNA of this team.

Since they arrived in camp in Australia over a month ago he has had the monumental task of reprogramming this team of global no names into one thing and one thing only.

A team that believes.

Without that vital ingredient, defeat will be swift and heavy. Postecoglou knows his team doesn't have the speed and exuberance of Chile, the fluency and art of The Spanish or the Dutch. 

But it can be fitter. It can be tougher. it can be scary. And it must believe.

Cuiaba is sure to turn on another lung bursting 30 degree day Friday for the game. It's an unforgiving heat that will immediately expose anyone whose heart won't carry the burden of what is sure to be an exhausting contest.

On days like that, work ethic is everything. It may not win you the match, but you will not win without it either.

Postecolgou has promised a team forged in heat, made of steel and unwilling to yield. He has lead the way as he has built a new look Socceroos with little sentiment.

The revolution has had it's casualties. Mark Schwarzer's recent comments outlined the hurt felt by those who paid the price. 

The Socceroos boss has put it all on the line. He's gone out alone, uncompromising and unapologetic.

He could never have known it would lead him here, to this place beyond imagining, but here he is.

Briefly, brightly at the centre of the football universe.

Cuiaba may not be ready.

Let's pray Ange Postecoglou and his Socceroos are.

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Many Faces, Voices and Places - One Game.

You're coming home with me... Pele and friend.

You're coming home with me... Pele and friend.

I am one lucky bastard.

 

As I'm frantically packing for my trip to Brazil for the FIFA World Cup Finals I'm keenly aware of that. Every one tells me so. 

 

Brazil, home of Jogo Bonito, a land of sun and samba where football is the heart and lungs of a nation, the core of it's very being.

 

It should be perfect, and of course it isn't.

 

In the weeks leading up to the greatest show on earth our news has been full of tales of chaos and confusion as Brazil struggles to meet the demands of hosting The World Cup Finals.

 

Sadly, the country has been saddled with an over reach of ambition by its rulers. It is also buckling under the weight of our expectation. 

 

Brazilians are battling to find a share in their country's extraordinary wealth. As their economy emerges as a 21st Century powerhouse, there is a struggle going on to ensure that those most in need are not left behind.

 

It can be witnessed in the "manifestations" that have occurred in the last year or so as ordinary Brazilians have taken to the streets to protest at the vast amounts of money spent by their government on hosting The World Cup.

 

Brazilians protesting about The World Cup? It seems like Santa protesting about Xmas.

 

Yet whilst we pack our bags to fly half way around the world to enjoy the trip of a lifetime, most  Brazilians live without the sort of pay, education, health, welfare, clean water and sanitation we take for granted.

 

It's a fact that disproves the cliche. Football isn't more important than life. 

 

Not even in Brazil.

 

 For most of this week I was despondent. I mean, if Brazil can't host a decent World Cup Finals, why bother holding them at all? 

 

Coupled with the continuing revelations of Qatar  successful 2022 bid, football had again started to feel like a con.

 

On the surface it's all glitz, glamour and endless possibility. Behind this flimsy facade the sleaze and corruption that oozes out of every pore of FIFA leaves a wretched stink.

 

 

As the day nears for my departure, I needed to remind myself that the game doesn't belong to the men in FIFA monogrammed blue suits who stride about as masters of the universe, though they hold it hostage - for now.

 

Nor is it the preserve of the mega corporations who pour rivers of gold into FIFA's Zurich bank accounts in order to cash in on the game the world loves.

 

It isn't their game. 

 

It's ours. 

 

Even despite the parlous state of its governance.

 

The enduring spirit of the game can't be shrink wrapped, packaged and sold to the highest bidder.

 

This revealed itself to me in Pretoria, South Africa during the 2010 FIFA World Cup Finals.

 

Japan faced Paraguay in a round of 16 game that night. One corner of the stadium was brought to life by the magnificent choreography of Japanese  Samurai Blue fans. Elsewhere in the stands, the Paraguayans were grooving to a pulsating rhythm of their own.

 

All around me, South Africans of all colour and creed enjoyed the festivities.

 

It was a brilliant occasion.

 

It occurred to me - what could possibly bring The Japanese, Paraguayans, Africans and the occasional stray Aussie together in a mood of shared celebration like this?

 

There is only one thing.

 

Football.

 

An international language, written with a ball and understood by all.

 

It is the spirit of the game that unites us despite the greed and avarice of some.

 

Many faces, voices, stories and places.

 

One beautiful game.

 

 

 

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