Editorial: Celebrating Socceroos’ World Cup journey
Four years after the last World Cup, Australia’s arduous campaign to qualify for this year’s competition in Qatar came down to one kick.
That kick came off the boot of Peru substitute Alex Valera.
Substitute goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne dived to the right and saved Valera’s penalty.
It brought the final score to 0-0, with the Socceroos winning 5-4 on penalties.
Australia qualified for its fifth consecutive World Cup in nail-biting fashion in Doha on Tuesday.
Redmayne’s save sparked euphoric celebrations from the estimated 500 Australian fans in the stadium, who had been largely drowned out throughout the game by some 12,000 Peru fans.
It has been a long and difficult campaign for the Socceroos involving 20 matches beginning in 2019 — with 16 of those matches played overseas.
Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has been under intense pressure amid calls for him to be sacked after the team missed out on automatic qualification for the World Cup in March.
To everyone’s surprise, Arnold made a risky gamble in the last minute of extra time by substituting goalkeeper and captain Mat Ryan for Redmayne for the impending penalty shootout.
His move turned out to be a stroke of genius, with Redmayne saving two penalties and giving the Socceroos the win.
After the game, Arnold said his decision to drop Ryan for Redmayne was simply to try and get in the Peru team’s head.
Australia went into the match the underdog, with Peru ranked 22nd in the world compared to the Socceroos at 42.
Under extreme pressure after 120 goalless minutes of football, the Australian team held their nerve right until the end.
And they got the job done.
It was all very reminiscent of the famous penalty shootout almost 17 years ago that saw us back in the World Cup for the first time in 32 years.
On November 16 2005, Australia took on Uruguay in Sydney for the final qualifier for the World Cup in Japan that year.
John Aloisi’s winning penalty has long since been lauded as the most important kick in Australian soccer.
Arnold was coach Guus Hiddink’s assistant there in 2005 and was apparently inspired by Hiddink’s plan to substitute the goalkeeper for the penalty shootout, although it did not materialise then.
“It was a risk, but it worked out,” he said.
Now we have another famous penalty shootout to go down in history.
As the Socceroos now prepare for tournament in November, we wish them all the best.
Australians can already be proud, and show it by displaying the Socceroos heroes poster that comes with today’s newspaper.
The Socceroos’ victory comes off the back of recent triumphs from other Australians on the world stage.
Perth golfer Minjee Lee’s historic win at the US Open and WA cyclist Jai Hindley’s victory at the Giro d’Italia.
Responsibility for the editorial comment is taken by WAN Editor-in-Chief Anthony De Ceglie
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