The Socceroos will participate at next year’s World Cup finals for the first time in eight attempts. And what’s more they thoroughly deserve to. Marc Fox reports.
Football Federation Australia will be feeling rightly proud of themselves this week after witnessing Australia’s greatest international triumph since Jimmy Mackay volleyed home a spectacular winner to ensure the Socceroos’ progression to Germany 1974. 32 years on, the similarities between the current crop of internationals and Mackay’s are eerie.
Back in ’73, Australia drew the home-and-away playoff series against South Korea before squeezing home in the deciding third fixture in neutral Hong Kong. The latest group to attempt what coach Guus Hiddink described as “making the impossible possible” four short months ago advanced in similar circumstances. Scores level on Dominoqq aggregate after 180, then 210 minutes, before penalties decided the outcome. The destination for its second-ever finals appearance: Germany.
Despite entering next year’s showpiece tournament as the second lowest rankest nation after Angola, with Hiddink at the helm today’s Australia will have the conviction to improve on the solitary point its predecessors managed in ’74. Back then, the Socceroos were mocked on their arrival in Europe having been cruelly drawn alongside East and West Germany as well as Chile in Group 1. How times change. If, as expected, the side is handed the unenviable label of bottom seeds when the World Cup draw is made on December 9, plenty will be keen to avoid the competitive Antipodeans.
For football officials in Australia, qualifying for Germany 2006 is the icing on an already delicious cake. After decades of disillusionment, what a way to bid farewell to its love-hate relationship with the Oceania confederation. To all intents and purposes, the Socceroos are now Asian. They leave the derisory half-place …