Monday the 12th of June 2006 will always be remembered in the folklore of Australian sport as the day a bunch of young Aussie’s united a nation like few events have in our short history. In what will surely be seen as a coming of age for Australian soccer, they announced to the world that Australia is not just in Germany to make up the numbers, but are good enough to mix it with the top teams in the world and beat them.
I was only two years old and too young to remember when Australia last played a match in the World Cup. That team of amateurs, created history by just qualifying for sports biggest event. The fact that they didn’t score a goal didn’t really matter. Fast forward 32 years and soccer in Australia is still a second cousin to the bigger native football codes of aussie rules and rugby. That all started to change however after the success of the new local A League competition and when after many heartbreaking near misses, the Socceroos qualified for the world cup finals late last year.
We travelled a long way from Mandurah, 70 kilometres to the south, up to the Paddington Ale House in Mt Hawthorn to be part of an english style pub atmosphere with about 350 others there for the big game, but it was well worth the effort. The whole pub stood as one to sing the national anthem at full voice before the kick off which was a spine tingling moment. After a few near misses with Australia clearly on top the crowd went into stunned disbelief when Japan scored a controversial goal in the 26th minute. Australia continued to pepper the goals, but with 84 minutes gone on the clock it looked like Australia’s rotten luck in the world cup qualification would continue into the main event.
Just when all seemed lost, Tim Cahill put the ball into the net from close range for our first ever goal in a world cup final and the whole place erupted. Everyone in the Paddo jumped for joy as strangers hugged, danced and chanted aussie aussie aussie oy oy oy. The celebrations had barely died down when he did it again, this time sending a stinging long range shot in off the left post for a cracker of a goal. The place just exploded, somehow in the space of a few minutes we had gone from a gut wrenching defeat to be 2-1 up in the world cup finals. Again we all jumped up and down hugging anyone nearby while the chant started “here we go here we go here we go…” It was a moment you’d like to freeze in time of pure unadulterated joy and just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, with about 1 minute to go in injury time, John Aloisi charged through several Japanese defenders on an inspired solo run to slot in the sealer. It was 3-1, in 8 short minutes Australia had scored 3 amazing goals to snatch victory from defeat and set itself up beautifully to advance to the next stage of the world cup.
The celebrations & singing dragged on for hours in the Paddo and all throughout Australia with thousands in the centre of Melbourne & Sydney and millions more in every pub, club & lounge room around the country. It was a night to remember, the night that Australia came of age in the game they call “The beautiful game”.