November 16th 2005 Why was it a great night?

As we come to the 10th Anniversary of that great night in Sydney there might be a few non-football supporters wondering why was this was such a pivotal night not just for football, but for Australian sport.  Up until that great evening football has suffered more pain and heartbreak than probably any major sport from this country.  From the earliest beginnings of this game as documented in Roy Hay’s The History of Football in Australia, football was viewed with suspicion and ambivalence compared the AFL, Cricket and the Rugby codes.

FIFA banning Australia in the 1950’s from all international competitions put the game behind by several years as was discovered when the ban was lifted and Australia played in a World Cup Qualifying play off against North Korea where they lost 9-2 in a two leg play off in 1965.  After another failure to qualify in 1969, Australia qualified for their first World Cup 1973 when Rale Rasic’s lads defeated South Korea 1-0 in Hong Kong.  After the 1974 World Cup where Australia played against West Germany, East Germany and Chile the start of the 30 year curse began.  Australia performed poorly in the ’78 and ’82 campaigns due to poor administration, coaching and lack of quality players coming through.  It wasn’t until Frank Arok took over as National coach that the Socceroos gained respect on the world stage.  Australia got through a difficult Oceania stage that featured New Zealand and Israel to play a two legged playoff against Scotland who had in their side great players such as Graeme Souness, Davie Cooper and Gordon Strachan.  Australia were competitive, but could not get over the Scots.  The 1990 campaign where the Socceroos were confident of getting through after wins against Argentina and qualifying for the 1988 Olympics were knocked out by Israel in a 1-1 draw.  The 1994 campaign brought us up against Argentina and Diego Maradona in a two leg playoff where Australia went down 2-1 in a gallant display.  Of course the heartbreak in 1997 against Iran at the MCG has been spoken enough and the smacking we got in Uruguay in 2001 just added salt to the wound to frustrated football fans in the country.  So when Vince Grella says “You can never repeat a night like this” he is right as it was 30 years in the making.

To understand even more think of the great players who donned the Green and Gold and never got to play in a World Cup.  John Kosmina, Jimmy Patikas, Charlie Yankos, Eddie Krncevic, Frank Farina, Paul Trimboli, Ned Zelic, Mark Bosnich, Aurelio Vidmar, Paul Okon and David Mitchell are just some of the greats who never got to show their wares at the greatest sporting event of the world.  For me it was vindication that I followed the greatest sport in the world.  I felt we were finally invited to the party that were not allowed in for most of my life.  It was like the girl you have had the longest crush on not only letting you kiss her, but also she wants to be married to you as well.

So we celebrate in my opinion the greatest sporting night this country has seen.  So thank you Guus and the lads for giving me a night I shall never forget.

About Vaughan Menlove

Obsessed with Richmond, Luton Town, Melbourne Victory and Arsenal. The Dr had a soccer career hampered by the realisation he was crap, but could talk his way around the game. Co host of It's Not Called Soccer podcast


  1. it truly was a fantastic night. we couldn’t believe Recoba’s miss that would have finished us. I couldn’t believe some of the racist dribble being peddled out bu Australian fans nearby, abusing local kids with Uruguayan parents who were cheering for the visitors or trying to be neutral. Piss-poor.

    Hiddink taking Popovic off saved us. Pennos was heart-wrenching but Canada in 93 was actually worse, jeez we were bad THAT day.

    We then went to the Townie and sat with Steve Cannane and co, sharing stories about teh Windies of the early 80s. Fell into bed with a ihot cross bun from King St about 5am.

    Best night ever! (My chcildren were both born at 11am…)

  2. James Grapsas says

    Good article.

    In any discussion about great players for Scotland who appeared in the 1985 World Cup play-off, Kenny Dalglish warrants a mention. He played in the first leg at Hampden Park, but did not journey to Australia for the away leg.

  3. Robert Green says

    Between 1974 and 2006my life was on a 4 year cycle that was – obviously – based on the World Cup qualifiers for the Socceroos. I had only become interested in football as a boy when the Socceroos played in West Germany in 1974 – so while I’d seen us play in the World Cup Finals I’d never seen us QUALIFY.

    The reasons for the failure to qualify every four years after that varied but what made the failure even harder to bear sometimes was that the Australian Soccer Federation (as it was known as then) appeared to give up on us (1985, 1993) and settle for the TV money instead of maximising the home advantge (by choosing playing at home first instead of second in 1993).

    Even moving to Sweden didn’t stop me turning up – lemming-like – at stadiums in Sydney and Melbourne in 1997 and 2005 to have my heart ripped out and put on public display.

    Obviously 2005 was vindication for myself and thousands of others for our loyalty – “you can’t cry and bellow at the same time” is my overriding memory of the final moments of that night at the stadium on Nov 16, 2005… this was and I’m sure it will remain my greatest sporting moment.

  4. Mick Jeffrey says

    John Safran would claim playing a part. If you watched the SBS series John Safran vs God you’d know what I’m talking about.

    In all seriousness I was glued to the set in my small upstairs uni dorm room hoping nobody from the Singapore Army would trigger the fire alarm as they often did. I still cringe today when I hear Bresch referr to as Mark instead of the correct name of Marco Bresciano. Wonder how many could tell you that he scored the goal that forced ET in the first place? I’m sure anyone will tell you about Aloisi or Schwarzer, but not many about the goal which I believe came after Harry miscued a shot/pass. I’ll also never forget a banner taking aim at Recoba who stated to the press that Uruguay had a “Divine Right” to be at the world cup.

  5. Dennis Gedling says

    That Scotland play off was a lesson in naivety. Playing a team that enjoys cold wet nights. Where do we play the second leg? Melbourne on a watered pitch. Geelong’s flag in 2007 and this in 2005 made all the bullshit I went through for a long time worth it in the end.

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