UPDATE : Australia have defeated Uruguay in Sydney via penalties.Read match report here.
First the updates : Australia and Uruguay meet tomorrow in Sydney in the second leg of the play-offs for the World Cup in Germany next year. Australia lost the first leg away in Montevideo 0-1. So like every WC, they face the uphill task of beating twice champions Uruguay at home.
Now the pathetic state of Aussie soccer :
Oceania(the group from which Australia comes) does not have a direct entry into the World Cup. The winners of Oceania play against the 5th team in South America for a place in the WC. Every year Australia thrashes all the stupid teams like Fiji, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand and proclaims itself the king of Oceania. Then it promptly goes and gets it's ass kicked by some South American team.
This time around their coach is Guus Hiddink, who one might remember from his exploits with South Korea at WC 2002. Also one report suggests that the match was a close one, so is it that not everything it lost ? Maybe. But considering the resources and player quality - the Socceroos should have qualified for atleast one world cup.
The A - League :
The Aussie local league, the A League is basically concentrated around the major cities. There is a wide disparity between the teams on either coast, with only one team from Perth participating. Some teams from around that area play in south-east Asian leagues simply because it's cheaper and nearer. The erstwhile National Soccer League could not be termed to be very competitive and had to be revamped into the A-League much like America's shift to the new system. There is also a inability to attract foreign players in the league, keep good local talent to help the newer generation and equally a lack in top-class quality. One exception could be Dwight Yorke, who seems to love the Fosterous life in Oz-land. He's currently playing for Sydney FC(IIRC).
Australia has produced extremely good players, those who can compete on the national level, at least recently. Some names playing in Europe include Tim Cahill(Everton),Mark Schwarzer(Middlesborough), Mark Viduka(Middlesborough) and John Aloisi(Alaves). An important name not taken is that of Harry Kewell(who probably became the first Aussie to win the Champions League), because of his friction with the Aussie Football Federation, and his subsequent retirement from international football.
The Australian Football Federation has taken an extremely significant and important decision by deciding to be a member of the Asian group, thereby having to qualify along with the likes of Japan and South Korea. This should ensure that a)they play more regularly against better opponents and b)that their chances of qualification grow manifold. However it's bad news for Asian teams like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and China who had an extremely good chance of qualifying. Asia has 4 slots, and now with 3 being clearly taken, there remains only one spot to keep fighting for.
Uruguay are a tough tough side to beat. With the likes of Alvaro Recoba(Inter Milan) and apple-of-everyone's-eye Diego Forlan(Villareal) along with Dario Silva, Marcelo Zalayeta and company I personally don't think the Aussies will be able to do it. Also a world cup without the Uruaguan team would be take some of the shine off Germany '06.
However in 4 years time at South Africa, if the Socceroos qualify then that could be start of the rise of a new power in world football. The American already have achieved much and the copy-americans that they are, don't expect the Aussies to lag behind. Also the talk of Australia hosting the WC in the future could materialize if this happens, which could prove a catalyst for this process.
Till then, the average Aussie will have to be content paying 25 bucks an hour to the beer-fetching bikini-clad model, as he watches Gilly pelt Pollock and company to all four corners of the MCG.