The moment much of the world had been waiting for came and went last week, with the FIFA World Cup 2014 Final Draw taking place on Friday.
World Cup Draw
Well, that went well.
Spain, Chile and the Netherlands. You could hardly have feared a worse group for the Socceroos to face on the worlds biggest stage. Sure, Australia were always going to be a bit of a long shot to win the prize – or even make it out of the group stage – however the draw they've been given means that even getting a single point out of the tournament may be beyond their grasp.
Not only are Australia facing the defending champions in Spain, they're also facing the runner up from 2010. Add to that one of South America's local powers, and Ange Postecoglou and his men are really up against it.
While one could dwell on the negatives of the draw and wallow in our own self pity, I'm choosing to look forward. This will likely be the one and only FIFA World Cup I ever attend, unless Australia ever wins the rights to host, so therefore I'm going to make the most of it. Sure, Australia will likely end up putting in results similar to their effort against Germany in 2010, but at least there's no real way they can underachieve. Anything north of slaughter will be positive. And as I've just submitted my request for tickets for the group games, I'll (hopefully) be able to see some of the best players and teams in the world.
World Cup 2010: Germany 4 - Australia 0
The other positive, is that I get to go and discover some new cities, with Australia's matches being outside of the major centres of Rio and Sao Paulo. I know nothing about the three cities Australia is due to play in – Cuiaba, Porto Alegre and Curitaba – but I'm going to make it a point over the next few months to learn what I can about these cities where Australia will go into battle, and hopefully help out any fellow Aussies travelling to support our boys.
All of the info below is just what I've been able to find online so if you have any more details on any of these cities, please feel free to let me know in the comments and I'll post an updated blog closer to the tournament. Accommodation is going to be a major stumbling block for many of us, so if anyone has any tips on this, please let us all know!
Match 4: Australia V Chile – June 13 @ 18:00
Cuiaba, Mato Grosso
Australia will kick off their campaign against one of South America's big hopes, Chile, who will likely bring with them thousands of dedicated fans, so it is going to be important for as many Australians as possible to be there to support our boys.
Cuiaba, a city of around a million, is the capital of Mato Grosso state, and is located ideally between the southern tip of the Amazon and the Pantanal which is known for being a great place to see some local wildlife.
To get there by bus from Rio is around 32 hours, so a flight would be preferable, however its looking like flights will be difficult to come by and very expensive – so perhaps settle in for a couple of long bus rides.
FIFA TV Documentary on Cuiaba
Match 20: Australia V The Netherlands – June 18 @ 13:00
Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul
This city of 1.5 Million and the capital of the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul sees the Socceroos go up against 2010 runners up Holland. The Dutch are perenial contenders and will be tough to get any points out of, however Australia has a couple of players who ply their trade in the Dutch system, and will be looking forward to having a crack at players they regularly compete with and against.
The city is another long haul, 24 hours from Rio, however it is only 12 hours on a bus from Uruguay's capital of Montivideo, so it may be worth crossing into the country of the Socceroos' traditional South American nemesis for a few days if you're lucky enough to get tickets to this game.
FIFATV Doco on Porto Alegre
Match 35; Australia V Spain – June 23 @ 13:00
Spain has taken all before them for the last several years and will once again go into this tournament as one of the hot favourites. The city of Curitiba will provide an extra dimension to this one, being over 3000 feet above sea level – something neither side will be at all used to. This host city, of a little under two million residents – is also the closest to Rio, with just a 13 hour bus ride.
It may be after this match that many Australians start their exodus from Brazil, so it is worth noting that Buenos Aires (Argentina) is 34 hours away on a bus, while Santiago, with its daily QANTAS flights to Sydney is 54 hours away.
FIFATV Story on Curitiba
While the chances of us making it further in the tournament do look bleak, remember how happy we are just to be there. Sure, we want to put in a good showing, but as long our boys gives us some effort and something to cheer for (and we all find somewhere to sleep) this could be the trip of a lifetime.
The Josh Kennedy goal that had us all celebrating
There are plenty of tour companies, such as the Green & Gold Army and the Fanatics who do a great job and are running packages for Australians to go to all of our group games, however I'm hoping to find some more info for people like myself who hope to do it independently and on a budget. For those Aussies still looking to register for tickets, you've got plenty of time, and should log onto Football Australia or go to the official home of FIFA.
Once again, please feel free to contribute any information you have about Australia's three host cities, or any other details you think the travelling fans might appreciate. Or just let me know if you're going too and we can help each other out. I'll submit an updated info blog closer to the date.
See you in Brazil!