It's finally here!
Today Australia take on Chile in their match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and I'm not afraid to say, I'm pretty damn excited!
Arriving in Cuiaba several days ago it was clear that the fans from Chile have us well outnumbered and they're very, very vocal about it. Walking around the streets you get swallowed in a sea of red shirts. If you're not among them though, you certainly hear them, with their various chants echoing around all corners of the city.
Watching the opening match - Brazil V Croatia - at the FIFA Fan Fest was a great way to kick off the tournament, with fans of both Australia and Chile as well as thousands of locals turning out to see Brazil shake off some rust and eventually win 3-1. The locals present were very passionate about their team, and when Brazil gave up the first goal - an own goal no less - that passion may not necessarily have been a good thing. Luckily, through some Neymar magic and overall quality, Brazil was able to turn things around and the place turned into one giant party.
Hanging with some locals
While the banter was friendly between the Aussies and Chileans, the rivalry had already started. The game was 24 hours away, but we kicked off the competition by competing for the hearts and minds of the locals. I'll give the Chileans their dues, they have better chants than us (Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi just doesn't cut it) but I think we were more popular in the end.
Fan reaction after Neymar's penalty
Today though, its all about the game. Few people give the Socceroos a chance of winning this game (fewer still give us a chance of winning the other two group games) and many believe we'll actually go the entire tournament without a goal.
Its definitely true that this team will have its struggles in front of goal, but I think the Australians can learn from the Croatians. Nobody gave them much of a chance against Brazil, but by being aggressive and taking the game to the hosts, they were able to force a mistake.
Arena Pantanal, where the match will be tonight
Australia's attacking options have certainly been limited with injuries preventing guys like Josh Kennedy, Tommy Rogic and Robbie Kruse from making the squad, but with leaders like Tim Cahill and Marco Bresciano as well as the quiet talent of Mile Jedinak, this side has some top class talent, albeit a bit thin on.
Chilean fans at the Fan Fest
Whatever happens tonight, there are thousands of Aussies who will be alongside me in the stadium cheering on the Socceroos and hopefully watching them give their best.