WORLD CUP XIs: Australian Coral (Guest post by Kevin Kwok)

Australia – Coral Reef XI

[I was motivated to create a Coral Reef XI for Australia because of two reasons. One, I have beautiful memories of a family vacation to the Great Barrier Reef and the surrounding Queensland region of Australia from when I was a child. These memories have not faded and there are the additional good vibes of this Australia trip kicking off a winning streak of brilliant vacations – Thailand, Hawaii, the Bay Area/Napa Valley, Hokkaido. Two, the Great Barrier Reef is currently facing an unprecedented threat due to the irresponsible and reckless actions of the Australian government as led by the current Prime Minister Tony Abbott. The Abbott administration’s decision to permit dredging and dumping in an area 15 miles from the Reef has drawn condemnation from no other than UNESCO, with whom the Reef is registered as a Global Heritage Site. UNESCO has placed the site on its “in danger” list, and has registered its concern over the lack of long-term planning to manage and understand the environmental impact the dredging and dumping will have. With all this in mind, I’d like to help in my own small way and raise awareness of the threat the Great Barrier Reef faces.]

Formation: 4-2-3-1

GK: Mounding Coral/”Bommie” – Made of many coral polyps cementing into a hard coralite skeleton, the Mounding Coral is so big it will effortlessly block anything heading towards it way, from free kicks, to bullet headers, to own goals. Intimidating and unmovable during set pieces. Only coral keeper to save a penalty from the known coral predator Crown of Thorns starfish.

Fullbacks: Purple Sea Fan/Venus Sea Fan – While neither are attacking fullbacks (the less said about their crossing the better), no other country has a pair of fullbacks as dedicated to shutting down opposition wingers as these two corals. Their unique fan shapes means wingers are inevitably shown down the line; any attempt to cross the ball into the penalty area, or even a long-throw, is sent back via the fans’ voluminous expanse.

CB: Table Coral – Gigantic size means this coral is a master at defending free kicks, and its presence is like having 2 extra men in a freekick wall. Together with the Mounding Coral, they are a terrifying sight for any striker to behold, and together with the Sea Fan fullbacks, they inevitably cause any set-piece taker to gnash their teeth and wail at the heavens in despair. Given its excellent ability to screen, the Table Coral can also play DM at a pinch.

CB: Elkhorn Coral (vice-captain) – Small when placed next to the Table Coral, but no slouch in the size department either. Renowned for both its long, very thick, and protruding branches and also its structural complexity. These two traits lead to the Elkhorn Coral’s unerring ability to intercept opposition’s through-balls, to its excellent reading of the game, and to its devastating presence in the opposition box during set-pieces.

DM: Staghorn Coral – Like the Elkhorn Coral, but more mobile and nimble, leading the Staghorn Coral to excel not just in interceptions but in authoritative and precise tackling. Currently riding a 36-game streak of no bookings plus 100% pass accuracy as its duties other than tackling is limited to passing to the Brain Coral.

CM: Brain Coral (captain) – The cerebral-esque grooves on this coral is not merely for show! The Brain Coral’s intelligence and imposing physique makes it a perfect player for keep-ball and tiki-taka, however, its rarely seen but brutally effective tentacles means it is also the perfect coral to launch cross-field balls to transition the team from defense to attack. The Brain Coral acts as an on-field manager, its intelligence and ability to always pick the right pass belies its status as captain, and it can run complex game theory during its penalty run-ups resulting in constant penalty success and subsequently the honor of being first-choice penalty taker.

AM/SS: Zigzag Coral – With support from such hardened defensive-minded players, the Zigzag Coral has the perfect foundation for launching its brilliant, slashing runs with the ball. The whispers are growing that with the Zigzag Coral, Australia could have uncovered a player better than both Messi and Ronaldo; its mazy runs are more predictable than the former, and any defensive schemes can either be bulldozed past or exploited in a manner more ruthless than the latter. However the Zigzag Coral is known to be injury-prone, and has professed to never having played a match while fully fit since childhood.

Wingers: Red tree Coral/Bubblegum Coral – These two coral species grow great and extensive branches that cover swathes of seabed. This mirrors the extensiveness and tireless running that these corals do on the pitch, from defensive work with their respective fullbacks, to cutting inside and linking up with the Zigzag Coral and the Anemone. This usually results in the Red Tree and Bubblegum Corals getting the ball recycled back to them, and shooting from distance at the edge of or outside the box; this is also the Coral Reef XI’s most reliable source of goals.

ST: Anemone – While not technically a coral, the anemone is renowned for its linkup play and the ability to keep the ball from opposition defenders. Just as the anemone shelters clownfish and other organisms from the travails of marine life, the Coral Reef XI attackers know that the ball is safe with the Anemone, and use it as a totem pole for their offensive scheming. This aside, the anemone is not renowned for its goal-scoring ability, but can contribute on set-pieces and is the second-choice penalty taker behind the Brain Coral.

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