The Canberra Classico always delivers. It’s a match-up between the two most successful clubs in Canberra football history and there is usually more than just bragging rights up for grabs as red meets blue, Canberra Croatia against Canberra Olympic.
Arguably though there has never been a bigger clash of the titans than this one because, for the first time since the introduction of the Australia Cup, the two colossal Canberra clubs clash for a place in the Round of 32.
The national stage beckons for the victors, the spoils of success more tangible than the silverware that will be raised high into the night sky by the captain of the winning team. A chance to front-up in front of the best that Australia can offer, a potential for a life-changing performance.
Olympic enter as favourites, how could it be any other way when they lead the pack at the top of the National Premier League, some then points better off than their opponents whom they defeated at the same Deakin Stadium venue that the Final will be contested, little more than a fortnight ago.
And yet only a brave man or a fool would write off the 25-times League Champions from adding a nineteenth Federation Cup to their already bulging trophy cabinet. Olympic, by contrast, can boast seven.
History has Olympic’s back, as Downer Olympic they defeated Canberra Deakin 1-0 in the 1983 decider and went even better in 1999 with a 6-2 hammering of their opponents in a memorable encounter. But, most recently, it was Croatia celebrating, a 4-1 penalty shoot-out success after a 2-2 draw in 2009 giving them the Cup.
The Round 7 league match was decided by a brace of goals from the in-form Nik Popovich, Olympic’s number nine having scored in every round on the way to the Final for a competition high five goals and the nominal away side will be looking to him for inspiration as part of an attacking unit that is the envy of many in the Division.
Perhaps those covetous eyes are less noticeable in the red corner, the Deakin-based club boasting a talented forward armada of their own and, in the form of Stephen Domenici, have a player with the ability to turn any game in his side’s favour.
But why stop there? Both midfield engine rooms combine silk and steel, for every Ryan Keir, Daniel Sparrow and Kaz Patafta, read Nathen Megic, Luca Macor and Callum Smith.
At the back the sheer physical presence of Matt Grbesa of Lasse Olrik might decide the contest for their team, or could it be the ‘keepers who have the final say? Who have you got? Seb Usai or Sam Brown?
The smart money might be on the benches being the difference. The quality from the substitutes to turn a tight one into a glorious night. In that sense, maybe it’s the burgeoning blossoming of a young tyro to the fore.
So many questions. One thing is for sure, they will be answered at the end of a pulsating night of action. This one sure isn’t going to be quiet.
Saturday 3 June
Canberra Croatia v Canberra Olympic
(Deakin Stadium, 17:30)
Students / Pensioners / Concession Holders: Gold Coin
Children Under-12: Free of Charge