Adam Peacock's Denmark Diary: The truly Aussie reaction to frustrating FIFA World Cup result

Fox Sports presenter Adam Peacock relives his memories from the Socceroos v Denmark FIFA World Cup 2018, which occurred two years ago on Sunday.

“Bert. BERT! Put Timmy on will ya!!! PUT HIM ON!”

That quote, that sentiment, that plea to the Socceroos boss is two years old but as vivid as the day it was relevant.

Two years ago today Australia met Denmark in Russia, in a place called Samara, another one of these places football lobs you into and you’re glad it did.

Aside from the ultra-adventurous, Samara is not your typical stop for your typical Australian traveller. Understandable, given the joint disappeared off the face of the earth for 60 years.

As Russia lived through communist rule, Samara – or Kuybyshev as it was known – was a closed city. Firstly as the fall-back option as Soviet capital in case Moscow fell in World War 2, then the epicenter of the Cold War space program. No-one could leave, no-one could come in. 

And here we were, young and free, piling off buses from Kazan, refreshed and ready for round two of the world’s biggest sporting event.

Regular questions swirled. How does Australia contain Christian Eriksen? Will Bert van Marwijk leave Tim Cahill on the bench again? Will this place, unlike Kazan, have enough alcohol in reserve for the advancing Australian forces?

We piled in to find out, keeping our respect of course. Like all of Russia, there was this sense of authority lingering, not least from a space rocket monument in the centre of Samara which looked like a giant missile, or the ultras who rocked up to support locals in a series of games against Australian supporters one afternoon. Great to see you lads! 

And there was Stalin’s Bunker, accessed through a non-descript door which opened to a maze of stairs to deep underground which the Soviets built as a back-up war room in case the Nazi invasion made life too difficult for Joseph Stalin and his crew in Moscow 1941. The Nazi’s fell just short and the bunker was never used which was reassuring because the tour took you into Stalin’s personal bathroom. You want to soak in history, but viewing where a dictator might have taken a dump brings it in to sharp focus.

Stalin's bathroom
Stalin's bathroom

We explored all of Samara, the parts on and off tourist maps, plenty to be found on another town along the Volga River. Marathon sunsets provided a backdrop to the town's bars and riverbank filled with the unique spirit of an Australian football tourist, perhaps not as rhythmical as the South Americans, or sophisticated as the Western Europeans, or boisterous as the English, but bursting with intent in finding a way to enjoy ourselves.  

All the hours blended into one until what really matted at 4pm on a Thursday afternoon; a time of the week which should mean afternoon tea after school pick up, or assaulting the vending machine for chocolate in preparation for the commute home. But in this instance, standing in the Russian summer sun in a stadium linked to the space program, shaped like a UFO, belting out the national anthem with 20,000 new best mates. 

I was lucky enough to be next to Socceroo great Stan Lazaridis. He should have played in a World Cup, but for the Iran debacle in 1997. Stan is not one to look back in anger. He was as big a fan as the rest of us, riding every challenge and swearing every swear word when Denmark took a 7thminute lead when Christian Eriksen sublimely finished.

The early setback swung around on 38 minutes.

Like Porto Alegre, like Kazan, Mile Jedinak stood over another ball placed on the penalty spot.

Jedinak found the net again in the following game, a 1-1 draw against Denmark.
Jedinak scores!

Stan, myself and the other 20,000 of us stood dead still. Stan muttered under his held breath “c’mon Mile, c’mon son” as our very own Rasputin impersonator stared blankly at Danish keeper Kasper Schmeichel carrying on like a pork chop, pumping himself up, trying to distract Jedinak. The Samara Space Rocket could have exploded to life and Jedinak wouldn’t have blinked. Scheimchel was beaten and silent as the stands erupted, same as Kazan, sound and beer and joy flying in every direction and it was impossible to be more alive.

I hugged Stan, he hugged me back, everyone within three rows screamed at each other and the Socceroos were suddenly a better than even chance to get out of the group which, most importantly, would extend this trip for many.

Only for it all to linger…

Happiness turned to hope and hope turned to a twist in the guts as the second half went on. The Danes - good unit but nothing special - had chances. We had chances, and Bert van Marwijk, our late replacement manager not known for anything outlandish, like say, a smile, waited. And waited.

Eventually he brought a young Daniel Arzani on, not experienced enough to play a full game of A-League, but dynamic enough to immediately cause the Danes a headache beyond anything the bottom of a vodka bottle brings. Out wide he whizzed by defender after defender.

And on the bench lingered the Socceroos greatest goal scorer.

“Bert. BERT! Put Timmy on will ya!!! PUT HIM ON!”

The sentiment fell from every corner of the stadium with an Australian fan in it. Poor Jackson Irvine. Not his fault Bert ignored Tim Cahill and went for him as the last sub on 82 minutes.

The game was there for the taking, and no-one took it. Bert took a risk on Arzani and it worked. Bert took a risk not putting Cahill on, and all we could think was… what if?


Tim Cahill Daniel Arzani
Tim Cahill and Daniel Arzani

There was no rush to get out of the stadium, endless days and nights mean you can catch up easily with fun, and I sat watching the place empty. What if?!

Family and friends of Socceroo players got a rare chance to catch up over the fence, asking each other… what if?! Eventually security said time to go. No what ifs about pondering that request.

Outside the gates, it was clearly evident the deflating outcome didn’t weigh heavily on all. Thousands lingered on the concourse and one in a Socceroos shirt climbed one of those high chairs stadium ushers sit in to lead a chorus of our basic “Aussssiiie, Aussie, Aussie, Aussie..” chant (oi oi oi not heard. Banned.)

10 feet up he stood, above a boxing kangaroo flag, drawing us all in.  

Yeah the result sucked in a way. But that‘s the best thing about a World Cup. It’s so easy to escape reality.  

An Aussie stands above many Aussie fans leading chants
An Aussie stands above many Aussie fans leading chants


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