If they don?t qualify now, when will they
By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
TONIGHT'S World Cup qualifier between the Socceroos and Uruguay will have people in households and bars all around Australia suffering edge-of-the-seat tension but there might be some extra tension in the Abonyi home prior to kick-off.
Atti Abonyi was a member of the only Australian team to ever play in the World Cup finals in 1974 but that doesn't mean that soccer will be the natural choice of viewing in his Boambee home tonight.
When asked about where he would be watching tonight's crucial clash, he pointed to his lounge room television but it wasn't long before his wife Chris spoke up about a special two-hour episode of McLeod's Daughters.
Harry Kewell or Tess McLeod? As far as Abonyi is concerned, there is no contest.
A recent virus forced the former striker to abandon his hopes of going to Telstra Stadium for the all-important clash but he is optimistic about the chances of the Socceroos, especially after Sunday's 1-0 first leg loss in Uruguay.
"On paper I think it's a brilliant result," Abonyi explained.
"I actually predicted a 2-0 loss and thought that if they can get away with anything like two or less, it's brilliant because remember last time they got whacked 3-0.
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"Had it been the same result this time it would've been curtains. Now, at 1-0, at least there's a hell of a chance.
"It's not a guarantee, though, it all depends on the night. They can either come out and get the two goals or get nothing."
Abonyi remembers with great fondness the trip of a lifetime that the Rale Rasic-coached team had in 1974 when the then footballing minnows took on the might of East Germany, West Germany and Chile in Germany and he hopes that this current crop of Socceroos can win through tonight and make the same trip in June.
What sticks out the most in Abonyi's mind about his World Cup experience is that the group were basically amateurs taking on the best that the world had to offer.
"In our case, six weeks before the World Cup we played against teams like Manly and Granville," he remembered.
"I'm not knocking those teams but going from that to the World Cup is just like a Group 2 side like the Coffs Comets playing against the 'Chookies' or Canterbury.
"The players these days are so used to playing top teams, top players, week in and week out at big stadiums."
Before Johnny Warren sadly passed away 12 months ago, Abonyi and his Socceroo teammate were very close friends and often would be in touch with each other. Warren would always tell him how fortunate they were to get to the finals in 1974.
"He always used to say to me that 'we had no right to be there'," the 59 year-old said. "To be quite honest, that's true. England didn't make it that year and so many different nations didn't make it but we just had the right run and we made it."
Come kick-off tonight, Abonyi will be like the rest of the sports fans in this country, desperately hoping that the team can find a way to become the second Australian team to go to the World Cup finals.
"I want nothing more than for Australia to qualify," he wished.
"If they don't qualify now, when will they qualify?"
Surely, on a night that is this important to Australian Football, Abonyi will be allowed to watch the Socceroos' return to the World Cup finals rather than Tess's return to Drover's Run.