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Soup of This Day #224: In Between Molecules Of Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide

August 5, 2012

Perth Arena
Perth Arena under construction. This stadium, when complete in November of 2012, will fill a void created when the old Perth Entertainment Centre was demolished. The latter venue was where Longworth72 saw Faith No More in November of 1997. The new replacement venue will host Longworth72 and alternative rock outfit Weezer in January of 2013 – Photo: Moondyne, 2012. Moondyne is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

The other day I bought tickets to see Weezer when they tour Perth, Western Australia, in January of next year.

This is a big deal for me.

Weezer you see have long been a favourite band, providing a fair chunk of the soundtrack to my university days. This tour will have particular relevance for that – It’s the Blue Album Memories tour, with Rivers Cuomo and co playing their iconic Blue Album right through. It was Weezer’s debut effort and it came out in 1994, my 2nd year as a campus drunk – I don’t know how many weeks it stayed on any of the charts but I can tell you that it rocked my playlist for a good 2 years, before being replaced by Weezer’s, I think criminally under-rated, 2nd album, Pinkerton.

The 1st song on Pinkerton was called Tired Of Sex. I used to belt out the titular chorus completely oblivious to the irony of me not having that much sex at that point in time. I wasn’t tired of having sex – I was just exhausted from having to put in so much effort to get to the sex bit.

In spite of my love for the Los Angeles band, I’ve never seen them live. This is in part because they last toured down under in 1996, in support of Pinkerton. It’s also because 16 years ago, when they were touring, I was a little cash-strapped. I could afford beer, take-away chicken and not much more.

So I didn’t get to go to many gigs. In fact, the last big name international rock act I saw was Faith No More. They played the Perth Entertainment Centre Saturday 1st of November, 1997 and it took a fair wack of my cash reserves – Around $100 I think, almost exactly the fee to see Weezer 15 years later – for the privilege of being hauled from the mosh pit by a sympathetic ambulance medic.

I was ok – Just short of breath. November 1997 was a massive month for me – Along with seeing Mike Patton belt out Epic live, later in the month I was to sit down with mates to watch Australia almost qualify for the 1998 World Cup.

That last might sound insignificant but it wasn’t. Australia had last qualified for the World Cup in 1974. At that tournament the Socceroos did not win any of their group games.

Probably because they failed to score a single goal.

Which was ok because we’d surely earn another shot at it in 1978 at the next tournament. Or 1982. Or 1986. Or 1990. Or 1994.

Or not.

Yeah, we failed to qualify for all of those World Cups. Part of the problem was that we belonged to the perennially weak Oceania region which had no direct qualification spots allocated to it. Therefore we were damned to a myriad of ridiculously difficult and convoluted paths to football’s biggest stage.

Which isn’t to say that we didn’t come close a time or many. In 1966 we lost a play-off against North Korea. In 1970 we lost a playoff against Israel. In 1982 we finally got to play against a nation that hadn’t been hardened by the threat of invasion but still somehow engineered a loss to neighbours New Zealand.

In 1986 we lost to Scotland and then in 1994 we beat Canada but only for the right to meet Argentina, losing finalists from the 1990 tournament. We did ourselves proud, holding them to a 1-1 draw in Australia, before succumbing to a narrow 1-0 loss in Argentina. The Argies legendary Diego Maradonna allegedly consoled Aussie captain Paul Wade with hope for the future:

‘Your tears of pain will one day be tears of joy.’

He must have meant for something other than football because Paul Wade never made it to a World Cup, bowing off the international stage in 1996 with 84 caps and 10 goals.

So Wade wasn’t there in November of 1997 as Australia, under the watchful eyes of English manager Terry Venables, drew the away leg of a World Cup play-off with Iran on the 22nd.

Keen eyes will notice a trend in our opponents – North Korea, Iraq in the 1974 campaign, New Zealand in the 1982 effort and then Iran in the 1998 tilt.

Yep, we played the Axis of Evil. And New Zealand.

To be fair the Axis of Evil label hadn’t been coined when we played Iran in Melbourne a week after the 1st leg in Tehran ended 1-1. The 2nd leg, played on a Saturday night, November 29th, had high stakes – The prize on offer was the right to play in France 98.

And it seemed for over a half of football that the Socceroos would break the drought – We were able to skip out to an early lead through 17 year old wunderkind Harry Kewell in the 32nd minute, delighting the then record Australian association football crowd. Shortly after half time, as Australia went up 2-0 thanks to Aurelio Vidmar, the coronation was complete in the mind of Longworth72 – Not even a commentator, who I think was 1974 Socceroos veteran Johnny Warren, asserting the hoary old legend that 2-0 is a very dangerous scoreline to have could dampen my belief that we were going to France.

I maintained my confidence even when the Iranians pulled a goal back, via Karim Bagheri on 71 minutes, to make it 3-2 on aggregate and crucially, 1-1 on away goals. When the latter fact set in I did start to experience some doubts – Another goal to Iran would level the tie at 3-3 and would see them through on the away-goals rule, having notched 2 of them to our 1. All Iran had to do was pinch 1 more goal.

Which they duly did – Khodadad Azizi scored on a long break that finished with him getting the better of Socceroos goal keeper Mark Bosnich on 75 minutes.

There was not enough time for the shell-shocked Socceroos to reply and so I and a legion of Australian football fans were left in numb disbelief. If they had taken an ultrasound of my heart that night they’d surely have found a piece of it missing, having just vanished in a tiny puff of smoke along with the Socceroos’ qualification hopes.

And so we went on, once more not playing in a World Cup.

In 2001 we again lost a playoff, this time against Uruguay. By then the pain was dulled – Like with a nerve that has been pinched too often.

In November of 2005 we again met Uruguay. The 18th ranked Uruguyans won the 1st leg at home 1-0. A favour returned by the 49th ranked Socceroos at home in Sydney. Unable to separate the 2 sides via extra time the tie went to a penalty shootout. It came down to a brilliant Mark Schwarzer save for Australia and the last of Australia’s penalties, taken by John Aloisi.

I’ll let you watch what happened next.

Listen closely and you can hear a Socceroos fan roughly 4,225km away in Carnarvon, Western Australia, roaring with the release of all of that pent up pain. It turns out that the nerve hadn’t been pinched too much at all.

Australia went on to notch it’s 1st ever World Cup finals win, in the process scoring their 1st World Cup finals goal. They were knocked out of Germany 2006 by eventual winners Italy in the round of 16, but I didn’t care – I’d seen my beloved Socceroos achieve something I’d dared not believe was possible.

So Diego was at least partly right. I’m not so sure that Johnny Warren was though – Is 2-0 actually a dangerous scoreline?

Not really – Taking the English Premier League (EPL) as an example and across it’s history, stretching back to it’s formation for the 1992/1993 season, 93% of teams who have led 2-0 have gone on to win the match. Just 1.8% have lost after leading 2-0.

And for a team that leads 2-0 late on, as Australia did in that 1997 tie against Iran, the odds are even better. Liverpool are the only team to have completely blown a 2-0 lead having created that scoreline as late as the 72nd minute. In that fixture, played last season, Queens Park Rangers notched 3 late goals to steal all 3 points.

I think that for most of the time a 2-0 scoreline is indicative of a team that is going to win. It’s not really a dangerous predicament unless you relax and get over-confident like Liverpool did against Rangers – And even then, given the nature of the professional game that is not a likely scenario, even for Liverpool, who all-time in the EPL have won 97% of matches that they have led 2-0.

In 1997, the Socceroos just got beaten by a side that was better on the night.

On Tuesday I’m having a scan done on my heart. It’s the latest test in a quest to understand why I keep getting dizzy spells. Whatever they see I think that the ultrasound will find little trace of the wound inflicted by that 1997 football loss.

Instead it might find a heart that has healed over, content that all things pass. All things bar beautiful memories that is – I reckon my pulse will still be tuned in to the beat of Weezer playing Only In Dreams.

Rock on folks.

In Between Molecules Of Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide

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