Sports

Soccer-rueful. The tiny margin that cost rising star colossal moments

Australia lose, 2-1, moments later. So close, yet so far.

But imagine what could have been! Take a moment to imagine:

Garang Kuol, Australia shoots during FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Round 16 match.Credit:Getty

Australia tie the game 2-2 with just one minute left on the clock. They go on to win penalty shootout! Kuol is the youngest player in the knockout stage of a World Cup since Pele was in the 1950s! Australia are in to the quarter-finals, and if we can beat Argentina, who can’t we beat?

But it’s not. So close.

Still, bravo, young man. Kuol’s equanimity and grace at the narrow miss bespeaks one who knows he has greatness in him, with many victories to come, and he’s right.

But, I repeat. Can you imagine anything in Australian sport that can match it, where sporting immortality was missed only by centimetres. I got nothing. We still talk about John Aloisi’s fine goal 16 years on. What would we do with? That goal?

Looking for inspiration?

In case you didn’t see it, Google released a list of the top searches in Australia this week. Seven of the top searches were for sport! I take it as some sign that in the current grim times, where worries abound all around – some of them existential worries – sport continues to be the great distractor, the entertainment elixir, the go-to uplifting subject for much of the populace when all else fails. Not counting “Wordle,” which came in at No.1, the sports subjects that most interested us this year were:

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1. Australian Open. With Ash Barty in her prime in the singles, while Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis were tearing ’em up in the men’s doubles, everyone climbed on board as never before.
2. World Cup. It’s not surprising that the Socceroos performed at the World Cup was better than any other Australian team and the mob was all over it.
3. Shane Warne. His tragic death, way too young, was probably Australia’s “JFK” moment of the decade – in the sense that most of us all will long remember where we were when we heard the news. (Seeing as you ask, being nearly asleep in the wee hours, when my wife woke me by shouting “Oh my God, Shane Warne has died!”)
4. Novak Djokovic. One of the most ridiculous stuff-ups in the year. By all means stop the unvaxxed tennis player at the border – but it should have been his border, not ours. This was a story in which politics and sport collided.
5. The Ashes. Four of the five Tests were won by our blokes.
6. Ash Barty. The Wimbledon winner went on to win the Australian Open. In March, she abruptly retired at the peak her powers.

What They Said

Graham Arnold After the Socceroos were eliminated: “I just hope that everyone back in Australia really respects what we’ve done and are proud of us as well. They were grateful. We came out on top. We had a great opportunity at the end to equalise. I’ve got to be very, very proud of the boys. Just so grateful at the effort they’ve put in for me.”

Socceroo star-in the-making Garang Kuol, 18: “I was telling myself I’d come on and score a goal, and Arnie was telling me the same thing. So, when I wasn’t able to score, I was very disappointed, just got to move on. It’s been unreal. Going one-on-one with Messi for a bit, like a dream.”

Socceroo Cam Devlin After exchanging shirts, Lionel Messi offered to swap shirts: “The jersey is going to be at my home and my dad has got it. I don’t think he’ll let me touch it anymore.”

Socceroo Jackson Irvine: “You have to have a go with the last 15 minutes. I think we did everything we could in order to give ourselves a chance. When Argentina are celebrating like this, victory against Australia, I think it shows what kind of opposition we gave them today.”

Goalkeeper for Socceroo Mat Ryan: “I haven’t seen a replay, but I’ll analyse it and I can only learn from it. We learn from our hardships in life and it’s definitely one for me. It hurts a lot, but I won’t let it get the better of me or define me. I’ll come back stronger for it.” Mat, mate, it’s already forgotten. The Socceroos did so brilliantly, that is the headline – your mistake no more than a footnote.

Craig Foster sums it up perfectly: “The greatest compliments possible to everyone on that bench, everyone on the field, this entire group, what you have done, you have pushed the potential world champions here and twice former champions, one of the greatest players in the world, you have pushed them to the limit.”

David Warner.

David Warner.Credit:John Shakespeare

David Warner in a long and detailed statement rejecting the hearing process to determine if he would be able to take a leadership role in cricket: “In effect, counsel assisting and, it appears to some extent, the review panel want a public trial of me. They want to conduct a public spectacle to, in the panel’s words, have a ‘cleansing’. I am not prepared for my family to be the washing machine for cricket’s dirty laundry. My family is more important to me than cricket.”

Greg Norman: “No matter where I go in the world, nobody – not one person – has said what I’m doing is stupid or wrong.” Ahem. Greg? Lean in. What you’re doing is stupid, and it’s wrong!

Rory McIlroy in response to things Norman said in an interview earlier in the year that he didn’t like: “I thought, ‘You know what? I’m going to make it my business now to be as much of a pain in his arse as possible’.”

McIlroy in Norman “I think if they had found someone less polarising, LIV could have made more inroads.”

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Japanese captain Maya Yoshida Sisyphean four-years ahead of them after their World Cup elimination: “Every day, for four years, we worked hard to break this barrier (by reaching the final eight) but we couldn’t get the result we wanted. It’s really hard to take.”

Chief executive of Rugby Football Union Bill Sweeney after firing Eddie Jones: “He He has the highest win rate of any England head coach, and has helped to develop many players’ and coaches’ leadership skills. It is important that Eddie is acknowledged for his immense contribution to English rugby. He won three Six Nations Championships and one grand slam, leading us to a Rugby World Cup. World Cup final.”

Spanish philosopher coach Luis Enrique After they World Cup elimination at hands of tiny Morocco “We have to congratulate the winners. They played their game well, and they did better in the penalty shootout than us. I think children have to learn how to lose, regardless of whether you deserve it or not.”

Team of Week

Socceroos. Finish your World Cup in glory, losing against France and narrowly falling to Argentina, but beating both Denmark, Tunisia and the rest of the way for the best Australian team performance at a World Cup.

Brett Robinson. Broke Robert de Castella’s 1986 Australian marathon record, with a 2:07.31 in Fukuoka, Japan, in only his eighth marathon. Here’s to you, Mr Robinson. Hours later, in Boston, the 45-year-old Sinead Diver also smashed the long-standing women’s record of Benita Willis, knocking off a minute to take it down to 2:21:34.

Former England Coach Eddie Jones.

Former England coach Eddie Jones.Credit:Getty

Eddie Jones. 10 months prior to the event, England rugby coach was fired World Cup, despite having the best winning record in English rugby history of around 72 per cent, is still the most successful. As ever, Eddie simply wore them out.

A-League. Resumes this weekend.

BBL. Next Tuesday, the program will begin. Be still, my beating heart.

RIP Nick Bollettieri. The legendary tennis coach died at the tender age of 91.

Nathan Lyon. You can come in spinner and have a lie down. He This is the eighth highest number of Test wickets ever.

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Merry

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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