Team Profile & History (Soc)
The Australian National Men's Team or the Socceroos, as they are more affectionately known, is the flagship team of the sport in Australia.
Every young Australian that plays the game right across this country dreams of one-day playing for the Socceroos and hopefully in, what is no doubt the biggest sporting event in the world - the FIFA World Cup.
Current Team Profile (2006)
The FIFA World Cup finals has come and gone for Australia, exiting the tournanment in the Round of 16 against powerhouse Italy.
The Socceroos performances spoke for themselves and the world now knows that Australia belongs at this level and is highly competitive.
The only thing that possibly got in the way of advancing further in the competition was experience in these types of cut-throat tournaments. However that we were just 10 seconds from taking the game further, and what most believe would have been ultimately victory, speaks volumes for how far this team has come.
The World Cup however could signal a change to this current squad, which still some very important Asian Cup qualifying matches to come in the latter half of 2006.
Some are predicting a mass of international retirements following the Cup and that a new era is just beginning.
However the bulk of the squad still has a number of years of international football left in them and early indications are that the World Cup has wet the appetite of the players and they want to have another shot in four years time.
The current squad of players is a good mixture of experience and youth, with most playing abroad in the big leagues of Europe. However the introduction of the Hyundai A-League onto the domestic scene and Australia-s entry into the Asian Football Confederation will open up doors for local players to make their mark on the national team. One only has to look at our first match in the Asian Cup qualifiers against Bahrain to see that.
No longer is Australian football considered a back water and with over 100 players plying their trade with overseas clubs, Australian players are now very highly regarded around the world.
When looking at experience in the squad, you can go no further than likes of Tony Vidmar, Stan Lazaridis, Tony Popovic, Zeljko Kalac, Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell, Craig Moore and Mark Schwarzer, who all have almost a decade of playing for the national team, while Scott Chipperfield, Brett Emerton and Josip Skoko are all nearing 10 years with the team. For many of these players the 2006 World Cup™ finals will be there last World Cup campaign and they are determined to hold off the charge from some of the younger players coming through.
The exciting talents Marco Bresciano, Vince Grella, Jason Culina, Tim Cahill, Lucas Neill and Archie Thompson are now bearing fruit on the international stage and these players will be the core of the national team for at least the next World Cup campaign in 2010.
Then there is the younger generation that is coming through and pushing, even now, for places at the finals in Germany. The likes of Mark Milligan, Ahmad Elrich, Jade North, Ljubo Milicevic, Jon McKain, Michael Thwaite, Scott McDonald, Brett Holman, David Carney, Michael Beauchamp, Alex Brosque and Josh Kennedy, who are likley to figure prominently over the next few years in the green and gold, especially in the upcoming Asian Cup qualifying matches.
We should not also forget the influence of master coach Guus Hiddink, who only took over from Frank Farina in August 2005, which instantly had an impact on the squad. His role with Australia was in combination with his role at Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven, making the achievements of the Australian team even more remarkable.
His experience at guiding two teams, The Netherlands and South Korea, to the World Cup semi finals, served us well in Germany and he will be a hard man to replace as we look towards four years time in South Africa, where the next World Cup will be held.
While football has been played in Australia for well over a hundred years, it wasn-t until 1922 that Australia played in an official international match. Australia met New Zealand on the 17th June of that year in Dunedin (NZ), going down 3-1. Bill Maunder had the honour of scoring the first ever official goal for Australia.
Of three matches, Australia failed to any games drawing the second international and losing the third by the same margin as the first.
Australia-s first international win came a year later, when New Zealand, our traditional rivals across the Tasman, came to Australia for another three-match series. The first match in Brisbane saw a victory for the home side, but New Zealand won the next two matches in Sydney and Newcastle.
The following year Canada toured Australia for a six-match series, with Australia winning three games, but it was to be another nine years before another international was to be played by an Australian team.
By this time, Australian football had improved considerably and proved strong for New Zealand, a dominance that was to continue for many years, including a 10-0 thrashing three years later.
The first big international tour by an Australian team did not eventuate until 1950, with a six-match tour of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa. It proved a successful tour with Australia winning four games.
1956 was a major year for Australian sport with Melbourne hosting the Olympic Games. Australia competed in the football tournament, winning its opening match 2-0 against Japan, but losing its quarter final match to a slick Indian team.
The aftermath of the Second World War saw many migrants come to Australia and with that they brought their passion for football, or soccer as it was more commonly known onto these shores. Many ethnic-based teams made their way onto the scene and with it came regular visits from high-profile European sides.
The late 1950-s saw huge changes to football in this country, not all for the good, and this led to Australia not being officially recognised by FIFA, the worldwide governing body for the game in 1959. As a result, Australia was banned from playing international football.
In 1963, the dispute with FIFA was officially resolved when Australia became a fully fledged member of the governing body and once again allowed to play in officially sanctioned international matches, the first of which were two qualifying games for the 1966 World Cup finals. This was our first attempt at qualifying for the ultimate prize of the sport and Australia was convincingly beaten by North Korea over the two legs.
While 1966 saw Australia play no internationals, it was back to business in 1967 and ever since there has been a steady flow of matches being played.
1970 saw another failed World Cup campaign, although they got through to the third phase of qualifying before bowing out to Israel, who was to become a fierce opponent of Australia-s for many years to come.
Australia-s next World Cup campaign however, proved much more successful and after a rigorous first phase of qualifying, met South Korea for a place in the finals to be held in West Germany. After both the home and away legs ended in draws (no away goals rule in those days) and third game was played in Hong Kong with Jimmy Mackay-s long range strike, becoming part of Australian sporting folklore, and sending Australia to its first appearance at the World Cup finals.
The World Cup was a totally different experience for Australia-s part-time players, up against fully professional players and where the sport is like a religion. Facing East and West Germany, plus South American-s Chile, Australia was expected to be whipping boys.
While they lost 2-0 to East Germany and then 3-0 to West Germany, they had earned the respect of the footballing public and their hard work saw them grab a 0-0 draw with Chile in the final game and leave the tournament with their integrity intact.
However since then qualifying for the World Cup has proven to be one nightmare after another, with almost impossible qualifying paths put in its way. Australia was the dominant power in the Oceania Football Confederation, the weakest of all the Confederations, and was therefore subjected to having to always play in a play-off, usually against a country from the most powerful confederations.
In 1985, it was against Scotland, losing 2-0 in Scotland and only managing a draw at home. There were high hopes for the 1990 campaign after Australia had recorded impressive results in beating reigning World Champions Argentina 4-1 in Sydney, before beating Olympic Games favourites Yugoslavia 1-0 and qualifying for the quarter-finals. However a disastrous 1-0 loss to Fiji in Nadi, derailed our hopes and we failed to even make the play-off after only drawing our final game at home against Israel.
By now a host of players were plying their trade in Europe, some rather successfully and many believed this would eventually take Australian football to another level.
The 1994 campaign, saw Australia face two play-off-s to get through, after winning all their Oceania qualifying games. They successfully negotiated Canada thanks to a young keeper by the name of Mark Schwarzer saving twice in the penalty shootout. Next up was Argentina and such was the importance they placed on these games, Diego Maradona made an international comeback.
Maradona-s skill earned Argentina a draw in Sydney, but in front of a daunting and hostile crowd in Buenos Aires, Australia more than held its own, finally succumbing to a fluky own goal by Alex Tobin.
However the heartbreak of 1994 was nothing compared to that of the play-off in the 1998 campaign. Facing Iran, with renowned coach Terry Venables at the helm and a young Harry Kewell displaying all his obvious talent, Australia was expected to finally break its barren run and qualify for France 98. Australia rode its luck in Tehran and drew 1-1 and in front of a capacity crowd in Melbourne, Australia started strongly and shortly after half time led 2-0. There was no way they could lose it from here, but that is what happened. A spectator-s run onto the field and breaking of the net, stopped Australia-s momentum and Iran came back into it, with two goals in five minutes and the rest is history. It remains the only campaign where a team did not lose a single game, but failed to qualify for the finals.
Shortly after that game, Australia played in its first Confederations Cup, where the best teams from each Confederation play in a tournament. Australia reached the final of that competition, which included a 0-0 draw with Brazil and victories over Mexico and Uruguay, with Brazil winning the final.
Four years later at the 2001 edition of the Confederations Cup, Australia again proved it could match it with the world-s best after inflicting the first defeat on France in a major competition since they won the World Cup in 1998. Australia finished third after defeating Brazil 1-0.
In qualifying for the next World Cup, Australia broke the record for the biggest victory in a World Cup match twice, its 31-0 win over American Samoa, a record never likely to be broken. Accounting for New Zealand in relatively easy fashion, Australia was then left with a difficult play-off against the feisty Uruguayan-s from South America.
Australia, thanks to a Kevin Muscat penalty, won the first leg 1-0 in Melbourne, but faced a daunting task in Montevideo and succumbed 3-0.
A 3-1 win over England at Upton Park in 2003 gave cause for optimism for the 2006 World Cup campaign.
Australia again qualified for the Confederations Cup (2005 edition), however this time Australia lost all three group matches and led to Frank Farina departing as National Coach after six years at the helm and replaced by Guus Hiddink.
Backed by the unlimited resources provided by the FFA board, led by prominent Australian businessman Frank Lowy, coupled with shrewd planning, the Socceroos defied all the odds, to this time beat its old nemesis Uruguay, in a pulsating penalty shootout in front of a magnificent crowd at Telstra Stadium in Sydney. It was a night to remember and a night that will long live in the memory-s of Australian sports fans.
Germany 2006 will be just Australia-s second appearance at a World Cup finals and will hopefully showcase the qualities of Australian football and kick start the game into an exciting new era.