Daniel Garb's Ghana diary: Arguably our greatest FIFA World Cup performance
Heading into the 2010 FIFA World Cup the hype around the team on-field was as strong as four years before.
This was still the Golden Generation minus Mark Viduka and hopes of marching through the undoubted difficult group that we had amongst a quite astounding travelling support group were certainly strong.
That all changed of course after the disastrous performance that was the 4-0 capitulation to Germany.
So while a result against Ghana was a necessity, not knowing what performance the team would dish up and whether they’d in-fact galvanise in Rustenberg ensured a feeling of trepidation across all Australian football fans.
As a result the feeling in that stadium when Brett Holman put us 1-0 up had a lot of relief mixed in with the utter pandemonium and euphoria that ensued.
So many thoughts were rushing through your mind amid the manic screaming: ‘We’re back!’ ‘And Holman scored! Cop that boo boys!’
The joy would obviously subside when Harry Kewell was sent off for a handball 20 minutes later.
Just a flat out 50/50 call that unfortunately went against us and with the converted penalty to go with it, a double whammy.
Tim Cahill and Kewell up top was Australia’s best possible option as a strikeforce at that World Cup, but the pair didn't play together in South Africa after Cahill had been sent off in the Germany game, which Kewell had missed through injury.
But from there what we saw is arguably Australia’s finest performance on sport’s biggest stage.
One all with a man down against an African team enjoying fervent support on their home continent and the Socceroos completely dominated the ball.
Their movement and ability to constantly find a free man despite having one less on the pitch was a joy to watch.
Luke Wilkshire in particular was superb, stepping forward from right-back to create an extra option in midfield at every opportunity.
He would have a glorious chance late to record the most memorable of Socceroos wins but unfortunately his effort was narrowly off-target.
Still, the campaign was back on track thanks to a glorious performance in Rustenberg that lives long in the Socceroos World Cup memories.
GARB'S FAVOURITE WORLD CUP MOMENTS:
2010 South Africa
That World Cup is also remembered for being absolutely freezing in Johannesburg.
I remember one night after a long day covering training Dave Davutovic and I were hovering around a bonfire outside a bar when, if you don’t mind, but two time NBA MVP Steve Nash just shows up!
He’s a massive football fan and was following Brazil all tournament. Talking football and having photos with him was a cool moment. He was a just a quality guy happy to talk about the tournament with football fans.
That’s the spontaneous memories a World Cup can throw up.
2010 South Africa
After close to two weeks of interviewing players at training sessions an invitation to the team’s base about an hour out of Johannesburg was an eagerly anticipated one for the media pack in South Africa.
What we encountered was one of the more bizarre Socceroos media moments in recent times when John Travolta appeared to wish the team the best of luck on the eve of the tournament.
On the surface it made sense, he had partied with the team post the Uruguay win in 2005 and as a Qantas ambassador was aligned with the Socceroos’ sponsor.
But still, it was John Travolta mingling with the Australian team on a South African safari resort a day or two out from their World Cup opener against Germany.
After a brief speech and photo op he didn’t really know what to do so naturally he resorted to Grease mode and belted out a few lines from ‘You’re the one that I want’.
Someone from the Socceroos camp had to help him out though because things were starting to get really awkward so naturally Tim Cahill stepped forward to help save the day.
They proceeded to do a weird dance duet with the infamous Jabulani ball that no-one quite knew what to make of but at least Danny Zuko wasn’t standing on his own without a clue of what to do next. Great times.
The best part of a World Cup is the party around a game that starts the night before and carries on long after the final whistle.
One of the more memorable such moments was against the Dutch in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
The Netherlands fan group were one of the few from outside South America that could match the Aussies for numbers and so in the best spirits of course they battled us toe for toe in the singing ranks the night before our epic battle.
Their advantage however was the brass band travelling with them which ended up blocking an entire street and delighting everyone with their tunes.
The high point however was when they belted out Waltzing Matilda, which obviously got all the Aussies on-side and helped create a wonderful atmosphere between the two sets of supporters.
Linked together by the best language of all, of course: Football.
Yet again the Aussie supporter group was world class.
It constantly amazes how strong our fan following is at World Cups for a supposed lower tier football nation.
The party after the France game was another epic one in Kazan and the Aussies completely blew the French fans away.
You can have your World Cup, you can’t beat our tunes.
I’m not kidding at one stage at around 11pm at night a straight hour of Melbourne Victory songs took over with one father sending his son to the other end of the bar so they could do ‘The North End’, ‘The South End’ chant. Brilliant.
MORE FIFA WORLD CUP FAN DIARIES:
Adam Peacock's FIFA World Cup Diary: When Socceroos & 20,000 Aussies converged on Kazan
FIFA World Cup Fan Diary: Accidentally giving your ticket away 40 minutes before Chile kick-off
'One of the most special days of my life': Simon Hill's Japan FIFA World Cup 2006 Diary