As I watched Australia defeat Bahrain 2-0 Wednesday in World Cup qualifying, I wondered about two things.
First I all, I realized I had no idea where Bahrain was located. That was a easy question to answer. With the help of an atlas, I discovered Bahrain is an Arabic island country in the Persian Gulf.
Secondly, with the competition in Asia not measuring up to the battles in Europe and South America, I questioned how good the Socceroos really are. The answer to that inquiry is much more complex.
Australia cliched a birth in the 2010 FIFA World Cup when they registered a scoreless tie against Qatar back on June 6. They are dominating the Group 1 bracket of Round 4, winning five of seven matches and not yet surrendering a goal.
However, the Socceroos are not facing world football powers being grouped with Japan, Qatar, Bahrain, and Uzbekistan. Off the top of my head, I tried to remember all the famous athletes that played for Qatar.
I know Jimmy Page is a great Qatar player. Nevermind, that isn't right. He is a tremendous guitar player.
Experts were anticipating the game next week between Australia and Japan to be a test of the real dominance of the Socceroos. Unfortunately, Japan will be without the services of several starters such as Celtic star Shunsuke Nakamura, Gamba Osaka, Yasuhito Endo, Makoto Hasebe, and Yoshito Okubo.
With Japan missing all that talent, it puts Australia in a no-win situation. They are expected to win, and if they don't, the critics will say that the result proves Australia is overrated.
The Socceroos are cruising now, but it hasn't been that easy for them for too long. In Round 3 of Asian qualifying, Australia lost to both Iraq and China.
In the 2007 AFC Asian Cup, Australia needed a 4-0 thrashing of Thailand to advance from Group A after tying Oman 1-1 and losing 3-1 to Iraq. Eventually, they would lose in the quarterfinals to Japan in penalty kicks.
Australia is the highest sloted Asian team in the current FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings, but they are only ranked 29th overall.
Despite the cynicism surrounding Australia, there are several positives surrounding the team. In the 2006 World Cup, the Socceroos advanced out of the opening round for the first time ever.
Under the leadership of Pim Verbeek, Astralia continues to improve as the talent level also escalates.
Mark Schwarzer is like a brick wall in goal, tallying seven straight shutouts. Defender Mark Milligan is gaining superstar status playing for Shanghai Shenhuain in China. The Socceroos has plenty of firepower on offense with Harry Kewell, Tim Cahill, Brett Emerton, and Josh Kennedy leading the way.
I still have plenty of time to decide if Australia will be a sleeper or a disappointment in South Africa. Perhaps I will think about today while listening to While My Qatar Gently Weeps and viewing that great Steve Martin movie, The Man With Two Bahrains.
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