Ã¢ÂÂIt'll be a miracle if the Socceroos don't come out of this clash with anything less than a two/three goal defeat,Ã¢ÂÂ was what I told FourFourTwo.com contributor Uli Hesse before AustraliaÃ¢ÂÂs opening World Cup clash with Germany, but even that turned out to be an optimistic assessment.
Australia saved their worst performance in years for the biggest stage of all, and the dismal display against Germany has kicked off an unseemly media war ahead of SaturdayÃ¢ÂÂs must-win encounter with Ghana.Led in part by Fairfax columnist Mike Cockerill, senior players have hit back at the relentless criticism by launching a war of words, with talisman Harry Kewell pointing the finger at AustraliaÃ¢ÂÂs most high-profile football journalist.
Ã¢ÂÂLivid Kewell demands Fairfax football writer shows himself,Ã¢ÂÂ screams one headline in the Fairfax press, after a less-than-subtle editorial from Cockerill claimed that Kewell spent more time on the cover of magazines than on the football pitch.
It was the latest in a string of opinion pieces from Cockerill questioning KewellÃ¢ÂÂs commitment to the national team, and it clearly got under the former Leeds and Liverpool manÃ¢ÂÂs skin. Ã¢ÂÂWhy isnÃ¢ÂÂt he here?Ã¢ÂÂ asked Kewell, as the Australian press gathered outside training in Johannesburg Ã¢ÂÂ with Cockerill conspicuously absent. Ã¢ÂÂDoes anyone have any answers for me?Ã¢ÂÂ
Kewell has a far friendlier relationship with veteran journalist and respected author Matthew Hall, whose 2000 book The Away Game was eventually turned into a popular documentary first broadcast on SBS TV.Yet SBS could also find themselves under scrutiny following a series of extraordinary attacks from their chief football analyst Craig Foster, with the ex-Portsmouth and Crystal Palace midfielder scathing in his criticism of Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek. In an astonishing tirade against the Dutchman, a raging Foster claimed on air that Verbeek should be sacked mid-tournament, before challenging the embattled coach to justify his selections or Ã¢ÂÂget on the first plane to Morocco.Ã¢ÂÂ
Considered the spiritual home of football in Australia, SBS were awarded the broadcasting rights to the World Cup finals on the back of their long-standing commitment to the round-ball game.However, the outspoken Foster has managed to polarise opinions with a series of stinging rebukes Ã¢ÂÂ some of which have been made in the form of off-the-cuff editorials after he has finished reading the nightly sports reports on SBS news show Ã¢ÂÂWorld News Australia.Ã¢ÂÂ
ItÃ¢ÂÂs all reminiscent of the classic Australian comedy series Frontline (UK readers: think Drop the Dead Donkey crossed with Ron Burgundy), particularly the moment when hapless current affairs host Mike Moore gets himself into hot water after an impromptu decision to editoralise on air.
One of the stars of Frontline is now hosting a comedy-themed World Cup show on SBS, but so far thereÃ¢ÂÂs been no attempt to get the likes of Cockerill, Kewell, Verbeek and Foster into the same room together.At the moment, the Socceroos have more pressing concerns to deal with, but if SBS are ever looking for a new show to knock cult classic Iron Chef off its perch, thatÃ¢ÂÂs one idea which is guaranteed to be a surefire ratings winner.