The Socceroos Home Sweet Home

by Tunna on Aug 07, 2017

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What is it about a team playing at home, with the backing of their fans that gives them such an edge over their opponent?

Whether at the top level or the local leagues, favouritism is frequently given to the team playing at home, as it’s perceived to automatically add to their chances of winning. We see this influence the way people enter their selections in tipping competitions, fantasy leagues, and is also prevalent in betting trends.

Is it simply due to the familiarity players have with their surroundings, the travel factor for the opposition, or the fact of having the majority of spectators on the side of the home team?

The basis of these preconceived ideas are subjective. I read recently a story by David Ruchinan for The Guardian which claims that the presence of the veracious fans at a home fixture really doesn’t have the effect that we’re led to believe. He wrote:

“The fans, the players and the media have merely bought into a myth of their own relative power or powerlessness, one that fits what they want to believe. There is no evidence that home advantage is much affected, if at all, by the size, intensity or commitment of the fans. Instead, home advantage is remarkably consistent within individual sports across different locations and different crowds.

“Where it varies, the factors that count are the ones that usually count in sport: skill, luck and changes of circumstance. So, for example, home advantage in English football has been relatively steady across the four main leagues for the best part of a generation, unaffected by crowd size or levels of fan interest: though it varies a bit season by season, overall the home teams win roughly 60 per cent of all the points on offer”.

Using the Ruchinan example, it would be fair to say that it’s likely that if Aston Villa were to come up against Chelsea in the quarter final of the FA Cup and were drawn at home, they’d be more favoured to get a result than if the game was played at Stamford Bridge.

Venue and routine for the players aside, it seems we can discount the power home support provides.

However, at a personal level, when the chips are down, it certainly seems that a home crowd, especially at club level, can have an effect in a tight fixture.

The surprising thing is that it doesn’t often apply when the national team plays, and it’s certainly not applicable when they’re playing in a do or die contest.

In Australia’s case, regardless of crowd size or engagement, the home team seems to win. What is it about playing at home that has made our Socceroos impenetrable?

The playing conditions are the first thing that spring to mind. If we compare the heat and humidity that often greets the Socceroos when playing away from home and the advantage this pours onto our sometimes less favoured hosts, it’s clear that when facing the same opposition on our home turf the tables automatically turn. You need only look at our recent history at home to see the way we’ve faired at home, one loss in over 35 games.

The move into the Asian confederation has allowed us to play in more competitive games which in turn has meant that we now have more reference points as to where we’re at not just from a technical viewpoint, but also in terms of how the national team copes in a much wider variety of circumstances.

Of course our greatest memories are associated with the team making ground breaking strides at particular points in time. Many come to mind but if we focus on unrivalled atmosphere, and the greatest show of support the Socceroos have ever received then you needn’t look any further than the following three examples.

• The return leg against Uruguay in 2005 is without doubt the most remembered. As John Aloisi stepped up to take that now famous penalty kick, it was as if the crowd gathered behind the goal to defy Ruchinan’s theory and will the ball into the net. We all recall the mayhem that followed but before that, it was certainly an atmosphere that those in attendance will tell you was unrivalled.

• When the Green and Gold end in Stuttgart exploded into song around the 65th minute mark in June 2006, you could sense the lactic acid disperse from the legs of our players as they ran over the Croatians, and got that deserving Harry Kewell equaliser on the brink of full time. The match was played at a neutral venue but as echoed by the players later, they said the Aussie crowd was so loud it was like playing at home, perhaps giving the players the spur they needed.

• The ultimate roller coaster ride that very few sports can rival was delivered to the Socceroos faithful in January 2015 with an Asian Cup final that will live long in the memories of those who were witness to it. Going a goal up, then conceding at the death, before some Tom Juric ingenuity led to James Troisi scoring from close range to send the country into ecstasy. A roar from the crowd parallel to the Aloisi penalty, the same patch of grass coincidentally, nine years before it.

The next opportunity Australians will have to see the national team in action on home soil may well decide their fate on the road to Russia 2018. What looks on paper to be a formality against Thailand might be yet another night that will be forever remembered as a giant stride forward in the game’s progress.

AAMI Park will provide the back drop on 5th September on what promises to be a night to remember, either way. Get along to support the boys and do it with that same passion as we showed in 2005, 2006 and 2015.

Go Socceroos!