Monday marks 10 years to the day since Australia sealed qualification to its second ever FIFA World Cup in undoubtedly the most dramatic finish to a football game ever played on Australian soil -- the famous penalty shoot-out against Uruguay.
The tension in the air as Australia began the second leg game in Sydney at a 0-1 deficit, after the first leg defeat in Montevideo; Mark Bresciano's crucial goal to tie the score after Harry Kewell had made possibly the most important air-swing in Australian sporting history; the extra time periods that failed to net any update to the scoreboard; two crucial saves from goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer in the penalty shoot-out; then John Aloisi's immortal shot into the top right corner, sealing Australia's passage to the Germany 2016 tournament as team mates ripped off their shirts, commentators screamed insanity and the crowd went justifiably ballistic.
It was the moment that Australian football truly arrived on the world stage, as the 2006 World Cup saw the green-and-gold score their first ever World Cup goal, record their first ever World Cup win and progress to the knockout rounds for the first time ever; since then, Australia has won through to the 2010 and 2014 World Cups and raised the Asian Cup trophy as the best team of the continent.
In honour of 10 years since the most significant game in Australia's football history, here are Australia's top 10 footballing moments since November 11, 2005.
Tim Cahill's goal against Japan
Australia's first game against Japan looked destined for a disappointing finish, with the Japanese up 1-0 after a controversial goal and Australia failing to convert chances. Just seven minutes remained when super-sub Tim Cahill joined the fray and made an immediate impact, scoring Australia's first ever World Cup goal and stamping that immortal flag-punching celebration into sporting folklore.
Tim Cahill's second goal against Japan
What's better than one goal? Two goals. Two goals is twice as good as one goal. Just minutes after drawing level, Cahill's screamer from outside the box pulled Australia ahead in the dying minutes of the game. Aloisi would again score as time wound down to finish off the game, but the victory -- Australia's first ever at the World Cup -- would be won here, with Cahill's double.
The 2-0 loss to Brazil
Australia's next World Cup game was a real baptism of fire -- a match-up with the reigning champions, Brazil. Many tipped Australia's inexperienced side to be crushed by the might of the Brazilians, a star-studded team of legends; Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Roberto Carlos, Kaka. But the Australians held them to just 1-0 until the dying minutes and even entertained the remote possibility of a draw, but a stoppage time goal saw the Aussies go down 2-0. It was a loss, but an encouraging and brave performance.
The 2-2 draw with Croatia
Going into the final group game of the 2006 cup, Australia and Croatia were locked in a fight for the remaining qualification spot after Brazil had already won through. A loss, Australia was out; a draw or win, we went through. In a sometimes spiteful match, the Aussies looked down the barrel of loss and an early plane home -- but star midfielder Harry Kewell stepped up, sliding home an equaliser (at 2.14 in the below video) with 10 to go that sealed Australia's passage to the round of 16.
The loss to Italy
It still hurts to watch. Australia, up against powerhouses Italy, had held on to a 0-0 scoreboard for 90 minutes and the game looked set for extra time. In the final gasps of extra time, an Italian attacking raid saw Fabio Grosso enter the penalty box and meet Lucas Neill, who he sidestepped, but then tripped and fell. The Italians pleaded for a penalty, the Australians claimed it was a dive -- but the referee blew a penalty kick. Francesco Totti lined up and scored, just as you knew he would; the Aussies were knocked out in the cruellest of fashions and the Italians went on to win the whole thing. Years later, Grosso would admit he over-acted to win the penalty; what might have been...
Brett Holman's goal against Serbia
Four years later, Australia had qualified for another World Cup and had arrived in Germany. Their 2010 campaign started poorly, a 4-0 drubbing from the hosts, but Australia had bounced back with an encouraging 1-1 draw with Ghana. The final game, against Serbia, saw Australia needing a big win to advance -- the game ended with a 2-1 Aussie win, and although the required amount of goals didn't come, the game saw Brett Holman score this absolute belter from distance.
Big losses and big change
As we geared up for the 2014 Cup in Brazil, the Aussies were drubbed 6-0 in consecutive defeats to France and Brazil. Lowlights, for sure -- but the twin defeats sparked wholesale change in the Australian side. A reliance on overseas managers, starting with 2006 mastermind Guus Hiddink then continuing with Pim Verbeek ended with Holger Osieck sacked after the second big loss. Local coach Ange Postecoglou was brought in to oversee the 2014 World Cup campaign, sweeping out some of the ageing heroes of Australia's "golden generation" to usher in new rising talent. They were maybe the losses Australia had to have, with intervening success down to the younger players brought in.
The 2014 campaign arrived, with Australia heading to Brazil in another "group of death," drawn alongside the Netherlands, Chile and reigning 2010 champions Spain in Group B. Australia never really stood a chance of qualifying, but still gave it a really good crack -- mostly on the back of Tim Cahill, again. This stunning strike against the Dutch was one of the most electrifying moments of the entire World Cup, and gave Australia hope of a result against the eventual third-place winners, but it was not to be.
Hosting the Asian Cup
2015 saw Australia named to host the Asian Cup, in just their second appearance in the tournament. Australia had only entered the Asian football conference a handful of years earlier, so being given the rights to host the tournament was a big step. Australia's footballing credentials were shown off to some of the biggest audiences in the world, with teams and fans from China, South Korea and Japan making the trip Down Under. It was a big step for the recognition of Australian football on the global stage and -- many hoped -- the first step to Australia hosting a FIFA World Cup.
Winning the Asian Cup
Of course, the big one. Having sailed relatively easily through the competition phases, Australia entered the Asian Cup final against South Korea -- the only team to have beaten them through the entire competition. However, the same mistakes were not repeated, with the Aussies winning 2-1 and lifting the trophy for the first time ever.Suggest a correction