FIFA World Cup in Australia
Until 2010, Australia had only ever qualified for two World Cups, both of which were held on German soil in 1974 and 2006. While those two tournaments represent the high water mark of the achievements of the national side, the multiple attempts to qualify for the biggest single sport event in the world have characterised the Qantas Socceroos' history.
While Australia's first international was played against New Zealand in 1922, its first attempt at qualification for the World Cup wasn't until 1965, and it took until 1974 before it made it. Famously, it would be another 32 years before the Qantas Socceroos would join the world's elite again.
First Attempts The first World Cup qualification match was played in Phnom Penh against North Korea on November 21, 1965. It was a two-legged playoff with Australia losing the first match 6-1 and then the return leg three days later 3-1. Les Scheinflug holds the honour of scoring the first-ever goal for Australia in a World Cup qualifier with a 70th-minute penalty kick. North Korea would famously go on to make the quarter finals in the 1966 World Cup losing 5-3 to Portugal.
Australia's campaign for the 1970 World Cup saw the Qantas Socceroos knock out Japan, South Korea and Rhodesia. After playing three matches against Rhodesia in Mozambique, Australia travelled from the southern African nation straight to Israel for the next stage of an arduous qualification campaign. It lost 1-0 and then returned home to only manage a 1-1 result in Sydney, which ended the World Cup dream.
Playing With the Big Boys Four years later under the guidance of coach Rale Rasic, Australia prevailed from the first stage of qualifying, winning a group that included New Zealand, Indonesia and Iraq. It then faced Iran home and away, winning the first leg in Sydney 3-0 before Iran won 2-0 in the second leg in Tehran. South Korea then awaited the Qantas Socceroos. Both matches ended in draws, prompting a hastily-arranged decider in Hong Kong. Jimmy Mackay scored the goal which booked Australia its place in the 1974 tournament.
Australia drew host West Germany, nearby East Germany and South American team Chile in a difficult Group 1. Its first match was against East Germany in Hamburg and Col Curran claimed an unwanted piece of history, becoming the first Australian to score in the World Cup finals - albeit for the other side. Australia lost that match 2-0 and backed up four days later against West Germany, losing 3-0. Against Chile in Berlin, Australia claimed its first World Cup point courtesy of a 0-0 draw.
The Beginning of the Exile The path to the 1978 World Cup was a complicated one that ultimately proved beyond Australia. Having seen off New Zealand and Taiwan in the early stages, Australia managed home wins over Hong Kong and South Korea, but losses on home soil against Iran and Kuwait left the side facing an uphill task. A 1-0 away loss to Kuwait in the penultimate game ended Australia's hopes of qualification.
A simpler qualification path for the 1982 tournament proved no better for the Qantas Socceroos, who were outpointed by New Zealand in a group that included Indonesia, Taiwan and Fiji. New Zealand defeated Australia 2-0 at the SCG in May 1981 all but ending Australia's hopes of making it through and the All Whites would go on to play in their only World Cup until now.
Australia had no such trouble with the Oceania sub-group four years later, progressing past New Zealand, Israel and Taiwan in the first stage. Scotland stood between Australia and a spot at the 1982 World Cup finals and the Scots made the long trip to Melbourne after defeating Australia 2-0 in the first leg at Hampden Park. The Qantas Socceroos tried desperately to get back into the tie, but could only manage a 0-0 draw.
After coming so close to qualifying in 1986, the 1990 campaign under Frank Arok was a disappointment. Up against New Zealand and Israel, Australia began well with a home win over the All Whites and a draw away to Israel. But New Zealand won 2-0 in Auckland and won its way through to the next stage when Australia drew with Israel in Sydney.
Falling at the Final Hurdle After seeing off New Zealand at the first stage of qualification for the 1994 tournament to be held in the USA, Australia took on Canada home and away, with the home side winning each leg 2-1, forcing a penalty shootout. Mark Schwarzer made his mark in a Qantas Socceroos shirt, saving two penalties and helping Australia through to a playoff against South American powerhouse Argentina.
Argentina, which included Diego Maradona, one of the greatest players ever to have graced a football field, travelled to Sydney in October 1993 to take on the minnows. But Australia was valiant and emerged with a 1-1 draw. Three weeks later, Australia faced a fanatical Argentine crowd in Buenos Aires. Argentina prevailed 1-0 to qualify, but Australia had earned considerable respect.
Heartbreak at the MCG The momentum built in the 1994 campaign carried into the quest to make the grade for the 1998 tournament in France. Terry Venables arrived to manage the team and hopes were high especially after the Qantas Socceroos knocked over Solomon Islands, Fiji and New Zealand with ease. Iran now stood between Australia and its destiny and a 1-1 result in the first leg in Tehran had Australia well-placed.
Famously, Australia had one foot on the plane to Paris, when it led 2-0 with just 20 minutes left in the second leg in Melbourne. A pitch invasion resulted in a break of concentration, however, and Iran pinched a goal back on 71 minutes. Khodadad Azizi then stole in for an equaliser which put Iran through on the away goals rule. It was one of the darkest days in Australia's football history.
So close... Again The qualification for the 2002 World Cup began with a series of lopsided matches against Oceania opposition in Coffs Harbour. Australia famously thrashed American Samoa 31-0, with Archie Thompson scoring 13 goals, world records that stand to this day. In a year where Australia finished third in the Confederations Cup, including a 1-0 win over Brazil, the Qantas Socceroos prevailed over New Zealand to set-up a home and away qualification tie against Uruguay.
A Kevin Muscat penalty gave Australia a 1-0 advantage after the first match in Melbourne, but the intimidating Estadio Centenario awaited in Montevideo. After Dario Silva scored early, the tie looked set to be decided by penalties, but in another heartbreaking exit, Richard Morales scored twice late in the match to get Uruguay through.
Back in the Big League The campaign for the 2006 World Cup began in Adelaide in May 2004 with the OFC Nations Cup, which doubled as Oceania's World Cup qualification. Australia defeated New Zealand, Fiji, Tahiti and Vanuatu but suffered a shock 3-3 draw with Solomon Islands. However, the Solomons would cause another upset, making it through to the final OFC qualifiers. Australia prevailed in the two-leg qualification tie in September 2005 9-1 on aggregate.