Day 3: Our men in Doha, Dagenham Dan and Brian continue this adventures in Dogha. Words by Brian and photos from Dan..
The third day of our trip brings us to game three of our jaunt, and a chance to gloat. Today’s match sees Australia take on the might of India. Oh the glamour..
In cricketing terms this would be a match between the first and fifth ranked teams in the world. Of course this doesn’t say much as there aren’t that many test playing nations in the world. But in football, this is the 26th ranked Aussies against the 142nd ranked Indians. If in last night’s game there was a big gap between the rankings of the respective teams, then this is even bigger. This is surely no contest?
Aside from the English based players in the Australian squad, there is also an English connection to the Indian team. They have an English coach in Bob Houghton. He has been there, done that and got the t-shirt as well, coaching for over three decades and in around a dozen countries.
In our hotel, we not only have three of the competing nations staying here, but we also have some of their media as well, including Fox Sports from Australia. Dan has already one encounter with them, when he was asked why we had chosen to come out here, and would we be going to the game? Of course, given recent events in the cricket, he said that we would be there, and that he would be in the only clothing choice that an Englishman could pick; an England cricket shirt.
It can be a hard life reporting for the ball is round. For most of the season so far, we have been making notes during games and watching matches in all sorts of weather, and not all of it pleasant. Today is a case in point; while it’s been raining at home, we’ve had to put up with a slight breeze and a single cloud in the sky. The birds are singing, and the pool bar is not yet in use by anyone, although the life guard is on stand by in case anyone feels like having a swim. Looking around at the moment, there are actually more staff around that guests. Honestly, it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. Actually having just written this, the number around the pool has just doubled, as the Uzbek head coach and one of his assistants have shown up.
Monday 10th January; Group C: India 0-4 Australia – Al Sadd Sports Stadium
As mentioned previously, this should have been no contest, and if we are being brutally honest, it wasn’t. For the first half, the Australians were totally in control, and scored three but could have had a few more. Their first shot at goal came within the first 38 seconds, and they had already had one disallowed before Tim Cahill put them in front inside 11 minutes. By 25 minutes it was two, thanks to a sweet left foot strike from Harry Kewell, and then Brett Holman scored the third with a header on the stroke of half time when he got in front of the Indian goalkeeper to a cross. As a contest, it was now over.
The second half was more of a training exercise for the Aussies, although if this was a training session then it was a sloppy one. There were lots of misplaced passes, and generally too much of the ball being given away. Although India offered very little threat up front, all it would have needed was one slip, and if they could have scored, then the majority of the near ten thousand crowd would have gone bonkers.
A brief mention of the Indian supporters; to those who have been watching international football for some time, do you remember the Japanese or Korean fans from about twenty years ago? You know, when an excited scream would go up if they managed to string two passes together, or managed to get out of their own half to mount an often futile attack? It was like going back to those days, and it was quite nice to be part of that. Unfortunately, being seasoned European football watchers, we could see that they were going to get nothing from it, but it didn’t stop their fans from getting excited every time they crossed the half way line.
The fourth and final goal came courtesy of Tim Cahill just after the hour, and there then followed the usual pattern of substitutions, along with a few more near misses for Australia, including another disallowed goal. There was a chance for India when the Ognenovski slipped and allowed the Indian forward to go through one-on-one with Mark Schwarzer. To the crowd’s obvious disappointment, the defender recovered and the striker fluffed his opportunity to make himself a hero.
As the game petered out to its inevitable outcome, people started to drift away. If this game was on tv at home, even I would have changed the channel and watched something else. Once the fourth official held up the board to show three additional minutes, Dan and I started to make our way to the exit, although keeping one eye on the game, making sure that nothing else happened.
Now it was time to try and make it back to the hotel. We had intended to get to the second game today, which was South Korea v Bahrain back at the Al-Gharafa, but given our problems on Monday, we had decided earlier in the day that we would probably have to give it a miss. There was still the problem though of how we were going to get back to the city, as the Al-Saad, impressive a stadium as it is, is a far way out. This is where the lack of co-ordination is becoming evident as we get more experienced finding our way around.
Before the game, Dan approached one of the members of staff to ask if there were any taxi’s around after the match that we could get to take us back to the city centre. Step forward the hero of the hour, Will Moody.
Unbeknown to almost everyone, there are shuttle buses that run from two points in the city (the airport and the Cultural Centre) to the stadium, starting three hours before kick off. After the game, they are able to take fans back to the same points, and are free to use. I say that there is a lack of co-ordination as we asked the AFC Hospitality/Information desk in our hotel lobby, and they knew nothing of these. It’s taken us three days to find this out, and in that time we’ve walked the few miles back from last night’s game, as well as our fun drive in a police car on Saturday. Will told us that he hasn’t had too many customers, and this was backed up by the fact that by the time our bus was allowed to leave the stadium, there were three of us on the bus. Three people. Four if you count the driver. This is a service that most supporters would use, so to not publicise this seems a bit mad. We will definitely be paying a visit to the Culture Centre to use these buses out to our future games especially after the nightmare of the now famous Al-Gharafa. The centre has also come highly recommended as well.
Tomorrow’s entertainment will be North Korea vs UAE. We are already having a guess the crowd competition after the North Koreans used Chinese citizens at last years World Cup. I have gone for 2500, Dan has predicted 1500 if lucky….we may even go VIP…