Slakr: Advance Australia Fair?

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Slakr is struggling with many weird, confusing emotions as he finds himself caught up in Socceroo fever.

In every World Cup, there are three sets of teams that true fans support. The team you love, any team playing the team you hate, and lastly that one surprise team that just impresses the hell out of you and helps defines the tournament.

In the past African teams have played that role fairly regularly, with Cameroon and Senegal’s efforts remembered fondly – especially after the latter knocked the Frenchie’s off their perch in 2002. This time, I’m throwing proverbial and deliciously literal shrimp on the barbie and cheering on the Aussies.

While their success thus far may not be that surprising given that many of their players ply their trade in Europe – but on the basis of their first two games, the Socceroos are definitely in Germany for much more than spreading Kangaroo awareness and the dangers of leaving dingos with your baby.

The Aussies may be the best sports fans in the world. Try sitting next to an Australian at a cricket match — its likely the most beer you’ll see consumed in one sitting (unless you happen to be sitting next to David Boon on a flight), and usually the most good natured fan support you’ll ever enjoy, even if they have this horrible habit of bringing up the Ashes at every opportunity (well, they used to). So its with joy that I saw Australia qualify for the World Cup instead of the 182,534th best South American side. And lets be honest here, everyone thought they’d be fun, their fans would be amusing, and that they’d have booked the first flight back Down Under at the end of the first round. Now I’m not so sure that they’re going anywhere soon, and I certainly hope they don’t have to.

A deserved victory against Japan was followed by a tremendous battling performance against the outright favourites to lift the World Cup. Had Kewell taken his chance directly after coming on, no one would have said a draw wasn’t a fair result. In both games, the team has shown more heart than almost any other in the tournament and while they’re not quite world beaters they certainly deserve to advance.

A point against Croatia will probably be enough for the Socceroos, and potentially lead to a mouth-watering second round clash with Italy. The coup de grace would be for them to meet England at some point and add a little something extra to one of the world’s best rivalries.