World Cup 2010: June 6 the Day of Reckoning for the Socceroos
While Jozy Altidore of the USA pulled a hat trick on Trinidad & Tobago, England was all business against Ukraine, and Diego Maradona found himself in a race with Sven-Goran Eriksson in the manager sack stakes, the Australian national team found itself at a crossroads.
They have come a long way.
It seemed only yesterday that the shackles of being a member of the Oceania Football Confederation were removed on a warm November evening in 2005.
With John Aloisi pacing the Socceroos 4-2 in the penalty shootout against Uruguay (who are, ironically, sitting in fifth place in the CONMEBOL group stage as of this article date), the Green and Gold were reunited with the global football community.
April 1, 2009 saw Australia place one foot on Table Mountain, with the other floating about in the Indian Ocean for at least a couple of months.
Through the reliable head of Josh "Jesus" Kennedy of FC Karlsruhe and the penalty-taking skill of Galatasaray's Harry Kewell (perhaps provoking memories of that fateful night), the Socceroos defeated Uzbekistan 2-0.
And it could have been all they needed.
But Bahrain, whom Australia defeated 1-0 through a miracle shot by Mark Bresciano, said to the fans at the Stadium Australia: "Not yet."
Their 1-0 victory over Qatar meant that the magic number for Pim Verbeek's men was...one.
As in one point.
A draw or a win will do the job against Bruno Metsu's Maroon (led by Sebastian Soria) whose World Cup dreams seem all but crumbled after their defeat by Bahrain at the National Stadium in Riffa.
For the aficionados of the round ball down under, June 6 may be the day where Australia makes it back-to-back World Cup appearances for the first time in its history.
Not only that, Australia could make a strong case to host the 2018 World Cup by snatching that extra point.
It was decades ago when Australia appeared in their very first World Cup, in 1974.
Since their last game, a scoreless draw against Chile, 31 years, 4 months and 24 days passed before they reappeared.
In those days, they were in Oceania. A confederation where they were the big shark in a shallow pool of minnows.
Now they are a shark in an ocean of sharks, whales and minnows. The competition in the Asian Football Confederation may be tougher, but the process is many times fairer than before.
And as they channel their way across the waters of adversity, a large hourglass watches over the Green and Gold like a sentinel, the grains of sand dripping down.
The seconds, minutes, hours and days continue to tick before Australia qualifies for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
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