A word to define the frustration of a nation

A word to define the frustration of a nation



1. (of a person or their behaviour) brave; heroic.

It is the most frustrating word in Australian football.

Why? Because it is a recurring – a conflicting – theme of our Socceroos’ World Cup campaigns.

A 2-1 defeat against France at Kazan Arena on Saturday followed that same trend.

We gave as good as we got against a high-quality opponent, one that has been hotly tipped to not only top Group C, but win the entire tournament.

Ultimately we came away with nothing.

Sound familiar? We found ourselves in the same position against both the Netherlands and Chile in 2014 before slumping in a fatigued heap against Spain.

There are similarities between now and then. Both in Brazil and now in Russia, we have just undergone a change of coach, and in both cases, a change in style.

The new man in charge this time around, Bert van Marwijk, was tactically astute against Les Blues; the Dutchman structured his side to a tee and after a nervy start, the Socceroos settled.

Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba goals either side of Mile Jedinak’s penalty meant Didier Deschamps’ side walked away with the all-important three points on day one.

Ask any Socceroos fan pregame and many would have told you they would have taken a narrow defeat. The free-flowing beer may have helped. Maybe.

But as the match progressed and it became increasingly clear the green and gold were pushing Kylian Mbappe and co. hard, sentiment began to change.

And after the game, on the ground in Kazan, at least in the direct aftermath, the mood was flat.

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What could have been. It could have been more if key, crucial moments went our way. It could have been Senegal 2002.

Coulda, shoulda, woulda.

Let’s not even delve into the can of worms that comes with that dreaded three-letter acronym.

Talk to the punters in the post-mortem and there were a few words that were commonplace: brave, bold, close, proud. Gallant. Not a lot of justice.

Left-back Aziz Behich summed up proceedings well.

“Mixed emotions … obviously (we’re) disappointed because I thought we deserved more, I thought the performance we put in was different class against a tough opponent,” he said.

“I thought we deserved more but there’s a lot of positives to take from this game and we should be proud of what we put in.

“We’ve still got two games to build on this performance, so our focus has already switched to the next game.

“We take it in our stride and we move on.”

We’re all proud of our national team. It was tough to fault any player, but it is tricky to know exactly how to feel about the result.

The jury is still out.

“Every time we lose everyone always says what a great effort we put in,” wrote one fan on Facebook.

“When will we move on from this mindset and see the games for what they are? The French threw themselves on the floor and were lucky to escape with that win!

“We should be a nation that is upset when this happens instead of just accepting it because we aren’t expected to win.

“I was happy that van Marwijk said he was upset after the loss because he felt we deserved a draw, that’s the kind of mindset we need as a nation going forward! I wish he could stay on after the World Cup.”

“Couldn’t disagree with you more,” read a response to the comment.

“You only have to look at our personnel to see that any of those aspirations you’re happy to apply to this team is unrealistic. Maybe in the future, yes.

“If we had our “golden generation” team I would agree with you. But in this current state this is just so out of touch with reality.

“So gallant will have to do. For now.”

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Maybe it will have to do for now. It will continue to be a great bugbear of the game in our nation for some time.

Accept being the little guy and the perennial bridesmaids, or challenge ourselves to punch above our weight? Expect to put teams like France away?

That frustration may never change. It might always be little old Australia against powerhouse France.

The gulf in quality – at least on paper – is palpable and needs little highlighting.

For the time being, attentions now turn to Denmark and Peru and mounting a fight to escape Group C.

A win against the Danes in Samara – who knocked over Peru 1-0 – puts us right back in the mix for progression.

Gallant was the word against France, but if we learned anything in defeat, we are capable of more.

Denmark can boast the quality of world class Christian Eriksen, but are they untouchable? Hell no.

Three points has to be the aim on matchday two.