Langer’s accusations that his former charges were “cowards” for not, effectively, calling a press conference and saying “Justin is stinking up the joint and we can’t stand it anymore,” is, in my view, absurd. As Langer well knows, that is not the way it works, not the dynamic of a national team.
And yet in review after review – and in the 2018 fly-on-the-wall documentary, The Test, filmed in the first year of his reign – the players’ views were clear regardless. In that doco, there was footage of Usman Khwaja telling the coach outright, as the cameras rolled: “I think the boys are intimidated by you, Alf. I think there’s a bit of the walking on eggshells sort of thing. I feel like I think the boys are afraid to say it.”
This was filmed just seven months into Langer’s reign, and it was already clear: they’d had enough.
And yes, in the wake of the uprising lots of Langer’s former Test team-mates – led by Matthew Hayden – have had the colossal presumption to publicly lecture the current players on the fact they shouldn’t be tired of Langer at all, that they don’t know what they’re talking about, etc.
Call me crazy, but I’ll put my money on the incumbents to know what the feeling of the incumbents’ dressing room was?
Equally absurd, I think, is Langer’s claim that he heard the players’ message, immediately changed his approach, won everything, and still got sacked anyway.
Ummm, no. What the record shows is that once the message was received by Cricket Australia, Langer was shifted into the back seat while assistant coach Andrew McDonald took over the steering wheel and, on the strength of the team’s subsequent success Cricket Australia was happy to move on from Langer. As were the players. McDonald is now the coach.
As to Langer changing his approach? Please.
Read those first paragraphs again over your second Weet-Bix. Does that sound to you like someone who has lightened up a little? Or, does he still come across as one you’d select to win a gold medal for Australia when they hold the Earnest Olympics?
Four years of that? It is a wonder it lasted that long, particularly given his claims on Thursday on Channel 7, that it was “complete and utter rubbish,” to surmise that – perish the thought –there might be a little tension between him and them, perish the thought!
“There’s sort of talk about relating the word coward with Pat Cummins. It could not be further [from the truth]. If you listen to the podcast, I was actually praising Pat. I was praising [Aaron Finch] ‘Finchy’. I was praising Tim Paine for giving me the feedback, it was magic.”
Absolute magic! Couldn’t be happier! Can’t wait to see his former charges, when the Test starts.
“The reason I can’t wait is that I haven’t seen the boys since I finished in February.”
Cleaning up: Japan’s noble gestures rewarded
Karma is not always a bitch. Sometimes she’s an angel.
After the opening match of the World Cup between Ecuador and host nation Qatar, most of the fans quickly streamed out of the stadium. Not the Japanese though. They were identified on social media as staying behind and helping the workers clean up the stadium.
Then on Wednesday evening, those same fans were there as Japan took on World Cup powerhouse Germany, only to fall behind in the 33rd minute of the first half. Did they despair? No. Did they tear up their tickets and throw them on the floor? Never! (They’d only have to pick them up later.) They kept the faith. That faith was rewarded late in the second half, when Japan scored a goal of their own.
1-1! They couldn’t, could they? Actually beat Germany?
For now, look. Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Karma the angel, come to look after her own.
In the 83rd minute, Takuma Asano takes in a pass, only to be confronted by a German defender seemingly twice his size, Nico Schlotterbeck. Does Asano back off?
Does he hell! He bobs, he weaves, he swerves and gets around him, still with control of the ball, even as the German goalie, Manuel Neuer moves to block him.
But look! There is a crack of light between Schlotterbeck and Neuer.
Asano draws back and strikes the ball, Ms Karma’s fluttering wings propelling the shot.
Goal! Goal! Goaaaaal for your life, I’ll tell a man it is. Do the Japanese crowd go crazy? They do not.
They wait patiently, unsure if Asano might be declared off-side.
Only when the goal is confirmed do they lose their collective nut, jumping up and down, crying and cheering, and doing everything bar tearing up their programs and throwing the paper in the air.
Japan holds on to win the match, 2-1, and the cheering and crying breaks out once more.
And then lots of them stay behind to help the workers clean up the stadium!
Points of difference
The Wallabies, meantime? Yet, one more devastating loss, this one to Ireland by just three points. When you put it together with their sole one-point win on this tour, and their two one-point losses, it means their average loss over the four matches is a neat one-point.
Did any team in the history of the world have a greater incentive to improve their performance by just a percentage or two. Against Ireland, France and the All Blacks this year – the three prime contenders to win the World Cup – they have been in shape to win, only to just lose. Yes, on wins/losses this year, things are beyond grim. But you’ve equally never seen a losing team with a higher platform from which to launch on a World Cup.
What They Said
Socceroo Nathaniel Atkinson after the loss to France, and what it was like to come up against Kylian Mbappe: “Obviously, it’s an eye-opener. There’s a reason why he’s earning $200 million a year, and I am where I am.”
Guardian journalist Barney Ronay on the World Cup: “There is only one story, and the story is: ‘What the hell are we all doing here?‘”
Irish soccer legend Roy Keane on the World Cup: “The World Cup shouldn’t be here. It shouldn’t be here. The corruption, regarding FIFA, you’ve got a country, the way they treat migrant workers, gay people. They shouldn’t have the World Cup here. You can’t treat people like that. We all love football, we love soccer, we’re on about spreading the game. Just to dismiss human rights flippantly because of a football tournament … it’s not right.”
Federal Sports Minister Anika Wells: “Sport is every bit as political as politics. The people who try to keep politics out of sport are the ones who currently have the power and want to keep that power.”
FIFA President Gianni Infantino melting down in a pre-World Cup press conference: “Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel [like] a vagrant. Today I feel [like] a migrant worker. Of course, I am not Qatari, I am not an Arab, I am not African, I am not gay, I am not disabled. But I feel like it, because I know what it means to be discriminated, to be bullied, as a foreigner in a foreign country.”
Ecuador fans during the opening World Cup match against Qatar: “Queremos cerveza.” We want beer.
Cristiano Ronaldo on playing in his fifth World Cup: “I don’t chase records, records chase me.”
Socceroo goalscorer Craig Goodwin after the opening match against France and his wonderful goal: “It’s mixed emotions because in the end, we lose the game. To score is an amazing feeling, it’s pure elation and almost indescribable in feeling. To score at the World Cup against the reigning champions is a moment I will remember for the rest of my life.”
French footballer Ibrahima Konate ahead of playing the Socceroos: “No, I don’t know any of the players individually.”
Graham Arnold returns service: “Doesn’t he have Paramount Plus?”
Panteha Khodadadeh, an Iranian doctor living in Copenhagen on watching Iran in the World Cup: “I am watching the game today crying. It really hurts to be from a country where you can’t feel real love for any national symbol, because it also becomes propaganda for a murderous clerical regime.”
Justin Langer: “A lot of journalists use the word ‘source’. I would say, change that word to ‘coward’. A coward says, not a source. Because what do you mean ‘a source says’? They’ve either got an axe to grind with someone and they won’t come and say it to your face, or they’re just leaking stuff for their own agenda.”
Mal Meninga on his Kangaroos winning another World Cup: “If you go back to the 1970s, we’ve got a 90% winning record. It’s been a dominant time for an Australia team and I think we accept that really well as a group. The expectation is that we win tournaments, so it’s not a burden to us. We carry that with great humility and respect and we understand that. Our most ardent supporters don’t want us to win, but we accept that and we get on with business.”
Georgia rugby captain Merab Sharikadze: “It’s amazing. Beating Italy was amazing, but beating Wales in Wales is unbelievable.”
Eddie Jones on England coming back from 25-6 down with 10 minutes left to tie New Zealand 25-25: “All of a sudden someone blows some magic dust, the passes start to stick and are a bit sharper.”
Team of the Week
Cristiano Ronaldo. First male player to score at five World Cups.
Demons/Lions. Contesting the AFLW grand final on Saturday.
Jillaroos. Crushed the Kiwi Ferns 54-4 to win a third-straight Rugby League World Cup final. And the Kangaroos also beat Samoa, to be world champions once more.
Sebastian Vettel. After 16 years in Formula 1 and having won four world championships, the German is hanging up his racing gloves.
Charlotte Caslick. Won her third World Rugby sevens player-of-the-year award. Rah, rah-rah!
Socceroos. Back on the World Cup horse on Saturday against Tunisia, the Eagles of Carthage. It’s time to throw caution to the wind and go for the win.
RIP One Day Cricket. As they say in the classics, the body will be cremated and the ashes spread on the MCG, where on Tuesday just 10,00 people could be bothered to turn up to a one-day match between Australia and England – a post-war record low. It’s over.