As they say in football, it’s the hope and then the four conceded goals that kill you.
A dream became a nightmare for the Socceroos and their fans, as they were humbled 4-1 by defending champions France at the World Cup in Qatar.
Here’s how the internet reacted to a whiplash-inducing match.
Having seen Saudi Arabia beat Argentina hours earlier, there was a small bout of why-not-us-too-itis spreading among the Socceroos faithful.
Of course, that buttery optimism was mixed with a heaped mound of floury pessimism too — a Soccer-roux, if you will.
Meanwhile, the international community was repeating its quadrennial discussion of the name of the Australian national football team.
But then the match kicked off, and suddenly every possibility was … well, possible, and we all drew deeply from that cocktail of hope, fate, chance and luck, although not those of us in the stadium of course, where such beverages are banned .
And then, in the ninth minute, it happened: Craig Goodwin scored the Socceroos’ first World Cup goal from open play in eight years.
A lofted pass from the back was superbly controlled by Mathew Leckie on the right wing, who then beat his man and sent a spearing cross to Goodwin, arriving at the far post.
The Adelaide United attacker’s finish crashed into the roof of the net and Australia was 1-0 up against the defending world champions.
The heady scent of an upset filled the Australian nostrils and the Socceroos were high on the fumes.
Mitchell Duke spiked a shot just wide minutes later.
It was 18 minutes of unbridled ecstasy.
But then it (a different ‘it’ to the first ‘it’, a worse ‘it’) happened.
Adrien Rabiot equalized for France, heading in from close range, totally unmarked in the center of the Australian penalty area.
Five minutes later the relative bliss of scoreboard parity made way for the horror of scoreboard deficit.
A defensive error by Nathaniel Atkinson allowed Kylian Mbappe to cross for Olivier Giroud, who handsomely tapped home from close range.
The Australian faithful, feeling the current of the match begin to drag their team toward perilous waters, began posting like a man caught in a rip at Bondi Beach, thrashing around wildly, groping desperately for something to keep their hopes afloat.
The Socceroos went into half time ensconced in a dark gloom, and lucky to be only 2-1 down.
And the faithful were already calling for the two Aussie attackers who might illuminate the second half; Jason Cummings and Garang Kuol.
When France decided it would be fair to hog 70 per cent of possession in the opening 15 minutes of the second half, the calls for Cummings and Kuol grew louder.
And then it (a third ‘it’, a very, very welcome ‘it’) happened.
Cummings came on in the 56th minute, and Kuol followed in the 74th.
Oh, the match? Yes, France had already made it 4-1, and were peppering the Australian goal like it was Peter Weller at the start of Robocop.
Olivier Giroud equaled Thierry Henry’s national team goal record, a nice moment for a player who has quietly become one of the best strikers of his generation.
The second half made clear — if it wasn’t already — just how outmatched Australia was, particularly in defence; Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele would routinely glide past the Socceroos fullbacks like they were slightly wilted potted house plants.
The idea Australia would have been able to defend its unexpected one-goal lead was fanciful, which put the decision to sit deep after scoring in a rather damning light; somehow surviving a desert shoot-out was probably our best hope of a positive result, as France wasn’t defending nearly as well as they were attacking.
The seven minutes of stoppage time were the final excruciating ordeal.
Australia must be a more sustained, coherent threat in attack if they’re to prosper in the next game against Tunisia.
I “4-1” would love to see that.