In a week where Australian Football is celebrating after the Socceroos qualified for their fifth straight World Cup, the good wishes continue for the Socceroos with their centenary celebrations.
With the 100-year anniversary of the Socceroos, let’s look back at some of their finest moments over their century-long existence.
10. Finishing runners-up in the 1997 Confederations Cup.
Perhaps one of the earliest achievements for the Socceroos, their runner-up finish in the 1997 Confederations Cup was the early sign that something was brewing in the Australian football landscape.
It started off with a 3-1 victory against Mexico, with goals from Mark Viduka and John Aloisi. It was a Damian Mori goal in the 90th minute to cap off an excellent first match.
After a 0-0 draw with Brazil in the next game, the Socceroos were in pole position to qualify for the semi-final. Despite falling in the second match against Saudi Arabia 1-0, the Socceroos qualified for the Semi-Final. In the semis, they versed Uruguay, and it was a Harry Kewell goal in extra time that secured a place in the final.
Despite falling in convincing fashion to Brazil, the Socceroos did themselves proud on the world stage, a pre-curser for what was to come 9 years later.
9. Harry Williams is the first Indigenous player to be capped for the Socceroos.
A momentous moment in the history of Australian sport. Harry Williams, playing his football in Australia throughout his career, spanning 20 years, became the first player of Indigenous descent to be capped for the national team.
Williams, a Wiradjuri man, Was capped for the main Socceroos team for the first time in 1970, before being one of the players on route to the Socceroos’ first World Cup in 1974.
His only appearance was a seven-minute appearance off the bench in the Socceroos’ last game against Chile, in which they were able to secure the nation’s first World Cup point. Williams was the first Indigenous Socceroo and since there have been six Indigenous players that have donned the Green and Gold. Frank Farina later became the first Indigenous man to manage the Socceroos.
8. Beating America Samoa 31-0 – 2001
The biggest win in international football history.
On route to the 2002 World Cup qualification, Australia was grouped in the group stage again Fiji, America Samoa, Tonga, and Samoa.
After beating Tonga 22-0 in the opening match, they then versed America Samoa. The America Samoan side had an average age of 18, due to passport issues and not having their under 20’s squad available due to school exams.
Despite a goalless first 10 minutes, the Socceroos piled on the goals quickly, scoring 16 goals before halftime. The match ended with a 31-0 scoreline, which spelled the beginning of the end of the Socceroos in Oceania, as well as restructures of the Oceania World Cup qualification.
7. Tim Cahill’s goal against the Netherlands – 2014
It was the second match of the Socceroos’ 2014 World Cup campaign, and they had just fallen behind to an Arjen Robben goal at the 20-minute mark.
After falling to Chile in the previous match, the Socceroos needed to respond quickly if they wanted to keep their faint hopes of qualifying out of the group alive. From the restart, the ball found Ryan McGowan on the left flank who lofted a looping, unthreatening cross into the Netherlands box. It was too far out for Tim Cahill to get onto it with a header, so he had to pull something extraordinary out of the bag.
The looping ball fell over his right shoulder, as he meets it on the volley with his opposite foot. The ball is struck and dips over the goalkeeper and onto the underside of the crossbar, it clatters down and then into the roof of the net, sending Australia into raptures as they had just witnessed one of the best goals of the tournament.
An incredible moment from one of the best players to put on the Socceroos jersey.
6. First World Cup Point – vs Chile 1974
The Socceroos’ first World Cup campaign was unpredictable, to say the least. Most, if not all the players that travelled to West Germany were part-time players, and none had experienced football outside of their home borders.
They went to their first World Cup paired in a group with the host nation and powerhouse of international football West Germany, World Cup debutantes East Germany and Chile, who finished in third place 12 years prior.
While not many expected Australia to win a game, they went into their dead rubber against Chile with the chance to restore some national pride. They finished out the game with a 0-0, securing their first World Cup point.
5. First World Cup Knockout game – vs Italy 2006
In their second-ever World Cup, the Socceroos went into their final group match against Croatia with a chance to reach the knockout stages.
After a back and forth match, it was a Harry Kewell goal late on that secured the all-important point for the Socceroos, thus allowing them to advance, booking in a Round of 16 clash with European giants Italy. One of the favourites to win the tournament and a side that was stacked with talent.
Once again, a back and forth match in which neither team could get a stranglehold of it. The first real note of the game came in the 50th minute when Italy defender Marco Materazzi received a red card for a challenge on Mark Bresciano. The game looked to have been going to extra time until Fabio Grosso was fouled, somewhat dubiously by Lucas Neill, the referee gives a penalty, which Francesco Totti converts to send Australia crashing out of the World Cup in heartbreaking circumstances.
Should Australia have won the match, they would’ve gone into the quarter-final match against Ukraine as heavy favourites, making every Australian ponder what could’ve been if their side had gone to the semi-finals. Despite this, this moment is still one of the proudest Socceroos moments of all time.
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4. Socceroos vs Peru – 2022
At a time when Australian Football was on its knees, the Socceroos needed to make the World Cup.
After a frankly disastrous qualification campaign that saw the Socceroos finish 3rd in their group, the equation was simple, beat UAE and Peru in another Intercontinental playoff game, and they’re through. They overcame the UAE through some Ajdin Hrustic magic late in the game, however, the Peruvians were going to be a much tough ask.
The 22nd ranked team in the world, they already knew they had the Socceroos’ number, as they beat them 2-0 in the 2018 World Cup. The game started slowly, as both sides were cautious of not making mistakes. It ended up going to extra time and then, despite some late chances for the South American side, to a penalty shootout. Martin Boyle stepped up for the first spot-kick and missed, making the heart of all Australians sink into their chest.
However, some heroics from Andrew Redmayne saw the shootout level again. The tensions got even tighter as it went to sudden death, Australia needed a hero. They found one through the most unlikely source, Redmayne, the substitute goalkeeper, made the save to send the Socceroos to their fifth consecutive World Cup. ‘The Grey Wiggle’ as he has now been called, has etched himself into Australian folklore, as he sent the Socceroos to Qatar.
3. Asian Cup Victory – 2015
The Asian Cup in 2015 was a tournament that was built for Australia to win.
On home soil, a squad raring to go after making a good account of themselves at the previous year’s World Cup, and a mastermind coach in Ange Postecoglou who had worked magic with this squad so far.
It didn’t start as planned, however, as in their opening match, Kuwait took the lead within 10 minutes. However, the Socceroos scored four goals to win the game 4-1, before smashing Oman 4-0 in their next game.
Despite falling to South Korea in the final game and finishing 2nd in their group, there was optimism for the Socceroos’ chances. They dispatched China through some Tim Cahill brilliance before two goals within 20 minutes saw them fend off the challenge of UAE in the semis, and set up a date with their old enemy, South Korea in the final.
Massimo Luongo got the ball rolling with a fantastic strike just before halftime to give the Socceroos the lead. The game looked to be all over until a very late Son-Heung Min equaliser saw the game go to extra time. It was a tense battle that saw the deadlock broken by James Troisi, as the Socceroos saw out a 2-1 win at Stadium Australia. It was a momentous occasion for the Socceroos, as they were able to secure their first major trophy.
2. First World Cup win vs Japan – 2006 World Cup
It was the Socceroos’ first World Cup match in 32 years.
The ‘Golden Generation’ went to Germany with only one thing on their mind, to make the country proud. They were in a group that consisted of Japan, Brazil, and Croatia, three teams that would take the Socceroos’ absolute best if they were to get through.
Their first match was against Japan, and after going behind 1-0 in the first half, the Socceroos needed to dig deep. Despite the validity of the goal being disputed, they needed to get on with the job. Time ticked away as the hopes of the nation slowly dimmed. However, cometh the time, cometh man, As Tim Cahill scored Australia’s first world cup goal, equalising in the process.
Australia has the momentum, and within a matter of minutes, Cahill had scored another, this one, even better than the last. All of a sudden, within the space of 5 minutes, the Socceroos had gone from 0-1 down, to 2-1 up.
With the game coming to its final minutes, the Socceroos sprung on the counterattack, the ball found John Aloisi, as the hero from the previous year smashed home Australia’s third goal of the day, securing a famous victory in the process.
1. That night vs Uruguay – 2005
After years of heartbreak, and years of agony, the Socceroos had one more chance to qualify for the World Cup.
With the heartbreak of Argentina, Scotland, Iran, and Uruguay all in the rear-view mirror, this rejuvenated Socceroos squad was ready to defy all odds and break the drought. Uruguay came into the tie the favourites, claiming they had a ‘divine right to win’, this only gave the Socceroos more drive to silence all the doubters. They went to the first leg in Montevideo with their backs against the wall, with 55 thousand fans in attendance, it was almost mission impossible. Uruguay won the game 1-0, which made the return leg at Stadium Australia even bigger than it already was.
Australia’s coach Guus Hiddink had it all to do, and he made the bold call not to start star man Harry Kewell. Instead, opting to use him as a super-sub later on in the match. However, just before the half-hour mark, Tony Popovic was very lucky to escape a red card, as an elbow landed flush on Álvaro Recoba’s face. He was cautioned with a yellow card, however, Hiddink wasn’t taking any chances. Off came Popovic and on came Kewell.
Within minutes his impact is felt, as he picks up the ball on the right-hand side, cut’s inside of the defence, and tries to get a shot away, his fresh air swing sees the ball land in the path of Mark Bresciano whose effort on goal find the back of the net.
The game from there was very tense, with both sides having chances that could’ve seen the game over within the 90 minutes. However, in the Socceroos’ way, it went all the way. Penalties decided the fate of these two sides.
The Socceroos got off to the perfect start, Mark Schwarzer saves the Uruguayan first spot-kick. After both sides traded goals from 12 yards, it was up to Mark Viduka, if he scored, then the fate of the Socceroos was in their hands. His penalty went wide of the goal, as the traumatic nightmares of Argentina, Scotland, Iran, and Uruguay all came flooding back. However, there was one more twist to the tale, Schwarzer produced one of the best penalty saves ever seen, which left John Aloisi the chance to be a hero.
Cool as a cucumber, Aloisi rights his name into Socceroos history books, as his converted penalty saw Australia break the 32-year-long curse and qualify for the World Cup.
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