The biggest disappointment about the A-Leagues All Stars game

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The A-Leagues All Stars may have come agonising close to defeating a world superpower, but not doing so may have come at a greater cost for the game in Australia.

As the ball slipped through the palms of Andrew Redmayne with 20 minutes remaining in the All Stars match against Barcelona on Wednesday, there would have certainly been a sense of deja vu for long-time fans of the A-League around Accor Stadium.

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The side had been in this exact same position before. Eight years ago, the All-Stars took a shock 2-1 lead in the second half in their match against Juventus, only to succumb to two late goals courtesy of Pepe and Paul Pogba.

Upon the two matches occurring rather coincidentally in two World Cup years, however, the connotations for both games could not have been further apart despite the identical scorelines.

Flashback to 2014, and the Socceroos third-consecutive World Cup appearance is only a month away. Ange Postecoglou had only just taken the helm after the sacking of Holger Osieck. But aside from this and their embarrassing friendly defeats to Brazil and France, things were bright and prosperous as far as the game in Australia was concerned.

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The national team had secured automatic qualification months before the tournament in Brazil had commenced, and the A-League was in the midst of a golden era upon the emergence of Western Sydney Wanderers, as well as being able to lay claim to the infamous marquee trio of Alessandro Del Piero, Shinji Ono and Emile Heskey.

Attendances were also booming, averaging out at just over 13,000 – the third highest in the league’s history. However, jump forward eight years and things are not looking so peachy in Australian football.

The All Stars took to the field on Wednesday night coming off an A-League Men season which was essentially wiped out by Omicron in terms of crowd attendance, television ratings and overall relevance.

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The appointment of then non-league coach Dwight Yorke was also criticised, and to rub further salt into the wound, the match would be shunted to the main broadcaster’s secondary channel despite attracting over 70,000 spectators in person.

After showing plenty of character, the manufactured side almost overcame all of this negativity to get the upper-hand over one of the world’s greatest teams – twice.

Many would have held their breath in solidarity with the stitched-together team as they nervously held their lead, but it was not to be as Barcelona seemingly effortlessly overcame the deficit.

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But when they did hold the lead, for a moment in time, it could have been one which cemented an A-League side upon having the ability to defeat Barcelona of all teams, and to make international headlines as a result.

It could have cast a greater light on Australian football and the way it is perceived internationally. Instead, the resilient efforts of the All Stars were not quite enough to do so.

In the end, all that was left was a yet another major-selling exhibition match, which would have left many long time fans to contemplate the state of the ALM, and the very real possibility of the Socceroos missing out on the World Cup.

Feature Image Credit: Daniel McGookin

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Jimmy Alexander
Covering Sydney FC for the 2021/22 A-League season. Studying a Bachelor of Sports Media (Journalism) at Charles Sturt University.

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