Top 100 World Cup Moments (From the Aussie P.O.V.): 16-The 1974 Pioneers (1974)

Following Jimmy Mackay’s wonder strike to send the Socceroos through to the 1974 World Cup the players went back to their little domestic leagues and (for most) jobs for some normality before the big dance in West Germany. The draw was held with something that looked like a cricket scoreboard being used to put all the names up and it wasn’t good for Australia. At their first World Cup the Socceroos would play hosts West Germany, their communist equivalent East Germany and the tricky Chile who had qualified thanks to the USSR boycotting their play-off because of Pinochet.

Forgeting any cliché comments like ‘being hopeful to make the next round’, coach Rale Rasic said:

“One Germany would have been bad enough. But two – I just can’t believe it!”

There was more fun news for the boys when they struggled to a 0-0 draw with a select side of Kiwis (sound familiar?) before they lost one of their best players thanks to some good old Uruguayan thuggery. Ray Baartz was karate chopped behind play and although he completed the match he had in fact suffered a stroke due to pressure on one of his arteries following the match and although he would pull through he would not play football again. One of the Socceroos greatest players out of the World Cup on the eve of the event thanks to those sky blue monsters.

Good thing we beat Uruguay 2-0 in the ‘friendly’ that was littered with fights, red cards and dirty tactics from the visitors. Following this match Rasic claimed there were no such thing as friendlies. It was also worth noting that for first time in an official capacity a national side had ‘Advance Australia Fair’ play as the national anthem rather than ‘God Save the Queen’. This was as a result of pressure from the then PM Gough Whitlam to have the national anthem change with the ABS releasing statistics claiming most Australians also wanted the change. It wouldn’t be until the 1984 Olympics though that it would be played when an Australian won a gold medal some 10 years later.

The side was to be based at the Ochzensoll training camp in Hamburg and went into siege mode. A smattering of Australian fans were there to greet the squad upon their arrival including the quite intense Jim Scane who owned the jacket in the picture above and had pants with slogans such as ‘we’re afraid of no bastard’ on the legs. The boys weren’t taken seriously with the Chilean captain claiming that he would tend chickens if Australia got through and the German press comparing us to Zaire and writing us off.


The first historic game for Australia in a World Cup would be on Friday June 14 1974 at 7.30pm against East Germany. ‘Advance Australia Fair’ was played as the national anthem. Played in a half empty stadium in Hamburg with the starting XI being Reilly, Utjesenovic, Wilson (capt.), Schaeffer, Curran, Richards, Rooney, Mackay, Warren, Alston, Buljevic. The first half was tight with the Australians playing above their weight against East Germany but a simple error finally cost the side when Curran scored an own goal near the hour mark. This opened the floodgates and despite the best efforts of Wilson and Schaeffer in the centre of defence the legendary East German striker Joachim Streich finished Australia off with a second goal after 72 minutes – not the best start for Australia with a 2-0 loss.


Never fear though, up next was one of the favourites and hosts West Germany! Johnny Warren was out injured (again) and Campbell came in to the side with Rasic claiming to the West German press (possibly after reading Jim Scane’s trousers) that the side would fear no one. Schaefer would be given the job of marking the dangerous Gerd Muller but every player had a job to do on a player that would give them nightmares. The teams played each other at the Hamburg stadium again but this time in front of a capacity crowd with the West Germans in their away strip of green meaning Australia would play in their home top – it would be the only win for Australia that day.

The pressure from the start was relentless on the Australians with Reilly in goal the first Australian to touch the ball. With the defence camped in their own area Germany tried to pass the ball over the top of said defence although that didn’t work but the match was only 12 minutes old when the excellent Overath collected the ball in the midfield and scored from over 20 metres out, 1-0. Australia did actually win a corner (straight to the keeper) and they almost had a levelling goal with a shot on target by Buljevic but West Germany’s second goal came after 34 minutes when Overath finally got a ball over the top of the Australia defence following a cross from Hoeness with Cullman heading it into the net.

In the second half West Germany continued to dance away with Mueller scoring after beating two opponents to score.  Double teaming the champions didn’t help.

Australia were given a footballing lesson by the eventual winners. Were the local fans happy with the result? No, of course not. They had wanted a bigger win. 3-0 the end result.


The final game for Australia would be a dead rubber (from the Australian POV) against Chile in Berlin at the Olympic Stadium which would play host to the 2006 Final some 32 years later. Before the match Rasic urged the Australians to victory noting that although they were winless (just like the then world champions Brazil)  that could change that day.  He impressed on them that although the game was only for pride, that pride mattered and was a quality the team had in spades. Atti Abonyi came in to the team for Campbell following his efforts against West Germany. The rain chucked down in Berlin for the match with Australia shading the South Americans in a high paced game but it was 0-0 at half time.

At the start of the second half a group of Chileans stormed the pitch protesting the recent coup by General Augusto Pinochet in their home country. Pinochet had taken over during the qualifiers for this tournament and used the national stadium in Santiago to hold political prisoners and tortured them in the changeroom and on the field. The protestors were booed until being carried away by the police and perhaps sent back home for some state funded care.

The downpour continued in the second half with the centre circle looking like an old ‘glue pot’ from the days of the VFL in Aussie rules. It finished 0-0 with Richards being the first ever Australian to be sent off in a World Cup match thanks to getting booked for taking too long to take a throw in. It was a dour draw but it was a point for Australia and they felt proud considering the way they played in the second half with 10 men.

This would be Schaefer’s last match for Australia and he retired from duty in the country he was born. The hero from Hong Kong Jimmy Mackay also retired on this grey day in Berlin with the midfielder throwing his boots to the crowd. The then ASF chairman Sir Arthur George paid tribute to the team following the result and their efforts in the World Cup which wasn’t bad considering they had been beaten by the eventual champions, beaten by the only team to beat the champions and drawn with a semi-decent South American side. George said:

“You have put Australia on the map for 700 million TV viewers much more effectively than all the diplomatic people who go overseas and spent hundreds of thousands dollars.”

The team returned to a heroes welcome in Sydney with 1500 fans showing up to congratulate their efforts. All the players would stay in Australia and resist the lure of playing in a league that was actually professional while the ASF shot themselves in the foot yet again by sacking Rasic and then hiring an unknown Englishman who would be arrested for shoplifting. Claims have been made that the reason for Rasic’s sacking was his close relationship with Gough Whitlam who consulted him and others about ways to involve multicultural society in mainstream sport and breakdown stereotypes.

It would be 32 long years before Australia would be back in the big one with a whole lot of pain in between but the original 1974 pioneers had a team spirit that 99% of the 32 heading to South Africa would kill for should never be forgotten in the Australian sporting psyche. A majority of us weren’t around or can’t remember the 1974 campaign but it’s an important part of our history and a memorable moment.

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Dilettante. Traffic Nerd. Behind the Almanac World Cup 100. Keen Cat, Cardie, Socceroo/Matilda, Glory Bhoy.

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