Heartbreak and euphoria: 48 years of Socceroos World Cup qualification

By , 10/11/2018 22:15

Australia’s World Cup qualification history1965: No mercy from North Korea
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Australia’s first attempt to qualify for the World Cup ends in complete disaster. Drawn against North Korea in their first attempt to qualify for the World Cup, the Socceroos were hammered 6-1 and 3-1 over two legs, three days apart in Phnom Penh – as Cambodia were the only country with diplomatic ties to both and was prepared to host the match. That North Korean side famously went on to defeat Italy 1-0 at England 1966.1969: Israel deny Socceroos

After overcoming South Korea, Japan and Rhodesia, the Socceroos lined up against Israel for a place at Mexico 1970. An own-goal to David Zeman would give Israel a 1-0 lead from the first leg. A crowd of 32,500 made their way to the Sydney Sports Ground to see Australia overturn the deficit, and while John Watkiss cancelled out Mordechai Spiegler’s opener, they couldn’t find a winner.1973: The Breakthrough

The moment at long last. Having squeezed past New Zealand, Indonesia and Iraq, and then Iran, the Socceroos drew their play-off matches 0-0 (Sydney) and 2-2 (Seoul) against South Korea – notably fighting back from 2-0 in the second leg. A neutral venue, Hong Kong, was used for the decisive play-off, and Jim Mackay’s 70th minute bullet proved enough to send Australia to their first ever World Cup in Germany a year later.1977: Iran pain, chapter 1

Following the high of the previous campaign, this was a relative debacle. Picking off New Zealand and Taiwan was easy but the test of Iran, South Korea, Kuwait and Hong Kong proved too much. Australia couldn’t qualify following a 1-0 loss to Kuwait in the penultimate group match, rendering their final game, against Iran in Tehran, irrelevant. Jimmy Shoulder’s side also lost that game 1-0.1981: The loss to New Zealand

Another disaster – perhaps the worst of the lot. After a 3-3 draw in Auckland, a shock 2-0 loss against New Zealand ended Rudi Gutendorf’s reign. New coach Les Scheinflug couldn’t save the day – a 1-0 loss to Indonesia in Suribaya cruelling the side’s qualification chances. The Kiwis then bounced all the way to Spain for their maiden World Cup appearance.1985: The Socceroos draw to Scotland at home

Australia vowed revenge on Israel and New Zealand in the group stage – and Frank Arok masterminded it with a 2-0 win over the All Whites at the Sydney Sports Ground to secure a play-off spot. The Socceroos were then pitted against Scotland’s golden generation for a spot at Mexico 1986. Despite a flurry of chances, a 2-0 home lead in Glasgow wasn’t challenged in the second leg at Melbourne’s Olympic Park.1989: Israel deny Socceroos again

There was more of New Zealand and Israel – and more heartbreak. A 4-1 thrashing of the Kiwis had a nation confident of progress to the next stage but an away draw against Israel and a horror 2-0 away defeat to the All Whites meant Australia had to defeat Israel in the final group match at Sydney Football Stadium. Paul Trimboli’s late goal could only secure a draw in front of 40,320 fans and a distraught Arok.1993: Socceroos versus Maradona

A changing of the guard of sorts as Eddie Thompson’s Socceroos showed themselves as a force to be reckoned with. New Zealand were no match and Australia then overcame Canada, ultimately advancing in a penalty shootout after winning the home leg at the SFS 2-1. Australia boldly stood up to Diego Maradona’s Argentina with a 1-1 draw at home and were only denied qualification by an unlucky Alex Tobin own goal in Buenos Aires.1997: Iran heartbreak, chapter II

The pain rankles deeper here than anything else. Australia never lost a single match in the qualification phase and found themselves ultimately pitted themselves against Iran over two legs for a place at France 1998. A 1-1 draw in Tehran gave Australia a great chance and when they were 2-0 up in front of a capacity crowd at the MCG, qualification looked assured. Two late goals to Iran cruelled a nation’s hopes.2001: Smash up in Montivideo

More heartache as the Socceroos, with one of their best-ever teams, again falls short at the final hurdle. Australia even takes a 1-0 lead into the second leg in Montevideo after a win at the MCG. However, it’s not enough, as a Dario Silva-inspired Uruguayan side bulldozes through. Australian football seems eternally stuck in rut.2005: Revenge over Uruguay

 The greatest moment of all. It’s Uruguay, again, except this time nothing is left to chance. The Socceroos win the right to host the second leg and feel content as they leave Montevideo with a 1-0 defeat. Guus Hiddink guides the team to match that result in Sydney and then take the game to penalties, where Mark Schwarzer is the hero and John Aloisi the eternal icon.2009: No worries … for once

The most professional qualification campaign imaginable. Australia’s first foray into Asia ends in the Socceroos proving themselves as the continent’s best team, despite a rocky third stage. However, they finish the fourth and final group stage by conceding just a single goal in eight matches – in their very last match against Japan. They are the first nation outside the hosts to qualify South Africa 2010.2013: Down to the wire

2013: After doing enough to comfortably move through the penultimate stage, the heroes of the past two campaigns come under fire as Australia slips to a 2-1 away defeat against Jordan and a failure to defeat Oman. However, the day looks to be saved as a draw with Japan in Saitama and a home 4-0 thumping of Jordan leaves Australia needing a win to qualify for their third straight World Cup.

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