Early on Saturday, hundreds of thousands of Australians awoke, flicked the remote button and watched the Socceroos put up a respectable, plucky and predictably unsuccessful performance against Chile. A sizeable number of those viewers had already read about Essendon's declaration of war on ASADA.
On the same morning when the AFL universe still revolved around a drug scandal - where the opposing teams were legal ones - soccer had a giant free kick. The global game offered an escape hatch from the indigenous game's troubles.
You didn't need to worry about the Dons. You could forget the inconvenience of AFL games starting at 4.40pm, or 7.10pm on Sunday, disregard the price of fattening food at the MCG, or that 30 players are crammed around the ball.
Richmond fans could watch the Socceroos lose honourably, before deciding whether they could stomach the Tigers v Dockers. They could follow another (losing) team, without forsaking their own.
If the World Anti-Doping Agency is watching Essendon, Cronulla and Australia's handling of its dopey scandals, sporting Australia is watching the World Cup.
While we shouldn't exaggerate soccer's reach in this country, the World Cup offers millions of Australians a tourist visa to the round ball code. They can glimpse the highest form of the sport on SBS, as though it was the Louvre or Grand Canyon. And the interest isn't confined to the Socceroos, in the same way that we'll still watch the 100-metre final at the Olympics. Brazil v Croatia had a peak SBS audience of 703,000.
The sense that the World Cup offers pure escapism is underscored by its presence at megaplex cinemas, where Greece v Columbia and Italy v England are screening (at 2am and 8am Sunday) alongside Tom Cruise's Edge of Tomorrow. If footy is slightly smelly in 2014 and has scored a few own goals, soccer can capitalise.
The World Cup isn't the bogey for the AFL that it would have become had Australia succeeded in its long-shot bid for the 2022 Cup. It will not cause people to stop following the Tigers or Pies and take up the Melbourne Victory. Footy's pre-eminent position in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth - and even its inroads in Queensland - aren't about to wiped off by Tim Cahill and Ange Postecoglou. The 2014 Socceroos aren't in the same postcode as the 2006 team, which reached the second round and had Johnny Howard jumping in his tracksuit, and the 2014 version, alas, have found themselves in a nasty group with Chile, Holland and Spain.
Soccer, to a degree, has chosen to avoid bumping with the AFL and NRL brutes, by entrenching its domestic competition in the summer, where it lost significant share to cricket's Big Bash League in 2013-14. The A-league's major structural failing remains its lack of free-to-air television.
But, if you step back and look at the long arc of the sporting landscape, it is bending towards soccer. While it will never reach AFL levels of interest as a spectacle and commercial enterprise, consider where soccer sits today, compared with a decade ago.
Last year, Liverpool played Melbourne Victory before 96,000 at the MCG - a record for any Liverpool game. As Victory chief executive Ian Robson noted to this column, the match brought 30,000 visitors to Melbourne. Robson reckoned it ''did not go unnoticed in Europe'' that the MCG and Melbourne could attract a turnout of that magnitude.
A decade ago, it was inconceivable that a European superstar of David Villla's calibre would play in the Australian domestic competition. Manchester City's purchase of Melbourne Heart, thus, shapes as a game, if not code-changer. ''It was conceivable only that he would be coming here to play golf, or have a holiday,'' Robson said of Villa.
Robson, the former Essendon chief executive who resigned due to the supplements disaster, also pointed to the A-league grand final, which attracted 56,000 and a sellout in Brisbane. This was considerably more than saw the Wallabies in the same city, and there's an argument that if soccer has gained at anyone's expense, the primary loser has been rugby union.
Not so long ago, too, we would have been dubious that the A-league could produce the majority of the Socceroos squad, or that two Victory players would be on the field together once James Triosi was substituted in and joined Mark Milligan in the Chile game.
Then, there's the mass participation level, where the AFL actually should be concerned. Soccer estimates its number at 1.7 million players, having numerous advantages over the other football codes - safety, appeal to girls (playing), the relative ease of organising a game and the international dimension.
For a long time, Australian football and the AFL were impervious to the international sporting economy. Fortress footy was not dissimilar to our manufacturing industries, which did not have to compete internationally. It could make its own rules, do what it liked - at least in Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and south of Wagga.
Today, the internationalisation of sport is impacting on the AFL in two ways. First and most obviously, soccer has grown at all levels - Socceroos, A-league, grassroots and female participation. To a degree, this has created a more diverse sporting calendar (in which many fans follow both sports).
Less obvious has been the influence of global forces upon the way AFL is played and the training methods, such as the interchange rates (hockey), the backwards kicking (soccer), the swarm around the ball and tackling (rugby), defensive zoning (basketball et al). Kevin Bartlett heads the cry of those who regret the gradual marriage between footy - once unique and wholly Australian - and the global games.
The AFL will not share the fate of Holden or Ford. It will continue to lead the market. But a culture that once celebrated ''football, meat pies, Kangaroos and Holden Cars,'' today is plural and replete with choice. And even in Melbourne, ''football'' could mean two games.