Australia is arguably the most fiercely competitive sporting nation of them all. When it comes to cricket and rugby, the multiple World Cup winners are among the best in the world. Soccer, however, is still a developing sport Down Under, but it hasn’t stopped the team from a few incredible achievements over the years.
1997 – Confederations Cup finalists
The Confederations Cup was a four-yearly tournament contested by the winners of the six continental championships plus the World Cup holder and a host nation, to make it up to a round eight. Australia qualified as OFC Nations Cup holders in 1997, 2001 and 2005. The Socceroos were up against the mighty Brazil in their group, and heroically held them to a goalless draw in their group match. A 3-1 win over Mexico meant that slipping up against the hosts, Saudi Arabia, was immaterial and they qualified for the semi final, where they toiled for a 1-0 win over Uruguay in extra time. The Socceroos had made the final and the world understood they were not just there to make up the numbers.
2001 – Goals galore
Australia’s failure to qualify for the 2002 World Cup is all the evidence you need that 20 years ago, the qualifying rules needed looking at. The Socceroos didn’t just win their group, they piled humiliation on the other teams, with 66 goals scored and none conceded from their four games. These included scorelines of 22-0 over Tonga and 31-0 over American Samoa. After sweeping Group 2 winners New Zealand aside in similar fashion, the Socceroos fell at the final hurdle, losing out in the inter-confederation playoff to Uruguay. But it just made them all the more determined for next time.
2006 – It’s a knockout
Qualifying for the 2006 World Cup was a big deal. It was the first time since 1974, and just being there was huge. Ranked second lowest in the entire tournament, nobody expected Australia to go further – well, nobody except the Socceroos fans. Whether it’s betting on Australia in a big game or finding the best online casinos for Australians, the antipodean love for gambling is a proven fact. In 2006 it was a case of forget the pokies and blackjack, as everyone was betting on the football! Incredibly, Australia found themselves in the same group as Brazil again, but losing to them didn’t matter. They did the important thing and beat Japan in their opening group match, meaning they only needed to avoid defeat against Serbia. Harry Kewell stood up to be counted when it mattered, and his 79th minute equalizer was enough to get Australia through to the last 16 of the World Cup.
2015 – Playing to win in the big league
The Socceroos performance in 2006 was a driver to their departure from the OFC and entry into the Asia Cup. No more humiliation of island nations, this was the big league, and they immediately proved their worth, making the quarter final of their first Asia Cup in 2007 and getting all the way to the final in 2010. Five years later, they were hosting the event, and sailed through to the final in front of fervent home crowds. Victory over the always dangerous South Koreans came in extra time and signaled Australia’s levelling up to a team that was capable of anything.
2022 – A fairytale of Qatar
The Socceroos were glad to at last forego Brazil’s company when the groups were announced for Qatar 2022. Instead, they found themselves in the same group as defending champions France, who beat them 4-1 in the opening game. For many, heads might have dropped, but the Socceroos knew exactly what they had to do. Workmanlike performances saw them beat both Tunisia and Denmark by a single goal, and they were through to the last 16 again, where they took ultimate winners Argentina all the way to the wire.