I have said it before on this blog that it's not what you achieve but rather how you achieve what you manage to achieve that counts. And last night's match between Brazil and Australia demonstrates the case.
I am not a fan of the Australian football team. They don't seem to do themselves favors whenever they open their mouths - all you hear are complaints about referees and a tough life with FIFA. The local press doesn't do them any favors with the way they cover them, pumping into people's heads that winning is all that matters - the great Australian approach to sports - which leads both the team and the people in general to dehumanize the opponents.
But worst of all, the Australian team plays a nasty type of football: they just go for their opponents legs.
That is, until the game against Brazil.
Quality wise, Brazil is infinitely superior to the Australian team. Ronaldinho on his own should be able to take entire Australian squad. But last night, Australia played Brazil as an equal, it didn't play rough, and I had the pleasure of enjoying a fast, tense, and free flowing game. I woke up at 2:00am to watch it, and when I got back to bed at 4:00am I couldn't fall asleep.
Yes, Australia lost, but it lost in a way that can make the team proud.
And who is to credit for this? There is only one address: Guus Hiddink, the Dutch manager.
I do not remember ever seeing a team so inferior to their opponents being so well prepared for the match. Formations changed on a constant basis to keep the Brazilians under pressure, attacks were well built to utilize on Brazilian weaknesses, Ronaldinho was no where to be seen (although Kaka did get too much of the ball), and overall Brazil was under lots of pressure.
If ever I required a demo as to why football is such a superb game, I got it yesterday. The weaker team was able, through preparation, to match up to the much better team; and unlike Aussie Rules, for example, it was runtime tactics that caused it.
Eventually the Brazilian coach, a pale shadow of the Australian/Dutch one, changed enough to enable a goal to be scored through the quality of Roanaldo and Adriano; but the fact the game had to come to that shows how well prepared Hiddink was.
For that, and most of all for not being a coward and for playing a superior team by attacking them back, I take my hat off.