Football commentator Simon Hill says it is “depressing” that Peter FitzSimons has offered a scathing opinion of the Socceroos’ World Cup opener.
The Aussies, particularly coach Graham Arnold, have come under fire for the apparent negative tactics during the 4-1 hammering at the hands of reigning world champions France at Al Janoub Stadium on Wednesday morning.
Heading suddenly into a make-or-break Group D clash against Tunisia on Saturday night, the public debate has seemingly centred on Arnold’s tentative tactics of siting back and letting the French attack dictate terms.
Socceroos greats John Aloisi, Mark Bosnich and Harry Kewell were all critical of Australia’s failure to press up the pitch with a more aggressive approach. FitzSimons appeared to arrive at the same conclusion when sharing his thoughts on Australia’s opening performance on his Twitter account and in a newspaper column.
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However, Hill, one of the highest profile voices in Australian football, moved to rubbish FitzSimons commentary when responding on Twitter.
FitzSimons wrote the Socceroos had dropped the ball on living up to the Australian sporting ethos of “Ave a go ya mug!”.
The former Wallabies player also questioned the lack of fight from the Socceroos, referencing former NSW State of Origin coach Tommy Raudonikis’ infamous “cattle dog” cry of starting a stink with the opposition.
He wrote the Socceroos looked “tepid” after the first 15 minutes of the match where Craig Goodwin scored a goal against the run of play.
“When looking like lambs to the slaughter, isn’t there another way,” he wrote.
“Wasn’t it time for the call of “Sheepdog!” to go out, as in a version of Tommy Raudonikis’s famous “Cattle dog!” call?”
FitzSimons also posted on Twitter: “I know nothing about this game. But to my neophyte eyes, our blokes are way too tentative, and lacking urgency, yes? I sense desperation, but not the right kind? We don’t seem desperate to go at them?”
Hill responded: “Glad you asked, Peter. Thing is, we’re playing a very advanced football nation.
“Players who play for the best clubs in the world, a domestic league that has a TV deal worth $1.3bn (ours is a tenth of that), an academy (Clairefontaine) among the best in the world.
“They have 46 fully pro clubs, we have 11. Their govt & corporate sectors plough millions into football️, we feed on scraps. They had visionary ppl like Jules Rimet & Gabriel Hanot, and dedicated️ media (L’Equipe for one) to hold the game to account. We have none of those things.”
He also responded to a Twitter user: “Just offering up some reasons as to why we can’t win in a global game. It’s damn difficult – and we try with very, very limited resources in comparison.
“It’s a minor miracle we keep qualifying in all honesty.”
Socceroos legend Bosnich was also damning when speaking about Australia’s failure to produce a successful production line of junior talents capable of going on to become world class players.
Hill said FitzSimons’ comment — and the prominent pedestal the 61-year-old has in sharing his thoughts on an unfamiliar sport — was “depressing”.
“Ave a go… I don’t know anything about the game…Tommy Raudonikis…soccer” Sigh,” Hill posted on Twitter.
“Why are we STILL getting these sorts of “analysis” pieces on the biggest sporting event on the planet?”
It all resulted in a Twitter spotfire between the two commentators.
“If you’re a general sports writer, shouldn’t you have at least a working knowledge of the biggest game on the planet,” Hill wrote on Twitter.
He went on to take a swipe at any implication the Socceroos could have simply gone on the offensive against the might of the French attack when Australia’s box was getting bombarded with dangerous balls. Some stats showed France had 44 touches inside the Australian penalty area as the Aussie defence sucked deeper and deeper back towards Mat Ryan’s net.
“That’s like saying how did you allow Mike Tyson to get so many punches in,” Hill wrote on Twitter.
“Answer: because he was the world champion, the best & most brutal, and never more dangerous than when he’s copped one on the chin.”
FitzSimons replied on Friday.
“But you and I would last three seconds between us, against Mike Tyson,” he wrote on Twitter.
“The Socceroos demonstrated in that first fifteen minutes against France that they could at least compete by being aggressive — as equally noted by Kewell, Bosnich, Foster et al. Are they wrong?”
He also posted: “That is precisely what it looked like to me — while recognising I have zero knowledge of the game. But it also was the seemingly universal view of the experts after the game”.
Hill has repeatedly spoken out against public criticism of football from Australian sporting commentators from outside the sport. And has predominantly stuck by his words of not commenting on rival Australian sporting codes — except to lament the piles of public funding given to the AFL and NRL at — some would say — the expense of football.
He has, however, broken his stance at least once and has previously referred — perhaps tongue in cheek — to the AFLW as “suburban giggle-fest”.
The clash between Hill and FitzSimons is a pretty fair reflection of the relationship Australia has with the world game — and why that dynamic doesn’t look like shifting one way or the other any time soon.
We’ll see you again for the same conversation in four years’ time.
However, the most important thing to remember is that Arnold and his players have a chance to make us all look like fools — and their campaign is very much alive.
Australia next plays Tunisia on Saturday night before taking on Denmark in the final Group D match at 2am on Thursday, December 1, and two results could be enough for Australia to qualify for the group stages.
Story Credit: news.com.au