Top 100 World Cup Moments (From the Aussie P.O.V.): 68-Sir Alex and His Scots Deny Arok and His Aussies (1985)

Oscar Crino in action against Scotland in 1985.

With Frank Arok now at the helm in a full time capacity the Socceroos side was starting to get something of a gelled side together. Throughout 1984 they blooded more youngsters and built up the likes of Crino, Kosmnia, Davidson and Mitchell with a heap of games against clubs and other b grade international fodder.

Their only game in 1984 that was a full international was against China late in the year which they lost 3-2. Like every campaign for the boys it would again be another new adventure to try and get to the big one. This time there would again be a group of FIFA refugees to fight through with your usual opponents of Israel and Taiwan along with New Zealand joining in with top spot getting through to the next phase. First up for Australia was a trip to their 1981 conquers New Zealand (again at Mt Smart Stadium). This time Australia escaped with a 0-0 draw rather than a humiliating loss.

This would be followed up with another trip to Israel where Australia had come unstuck before. With Arok at the helm the national stadium in Ramat Gan held no fears for the boys this time and with second half goals from Mitchell and Kosmina they prevailed 2-1, a massive win. The return match ended with a 1-1 draw at Olympic Park in Melbourne with defender David Ratcliffe scoring. With the usual thrashings (7-0 and 8-0) against Taiwan out of the way, it all came down to the final match in Sydney against (surprise surprise) New Zealand. With the All Whites needing a win to topple Australia for a second campaign in a row they were left wide open at the back and lost 2-0 thanks to goals in either half from Kosmina and Mitchell again. Australia were through! No shameful efforts like in the 1982 campaign!

Who was next? Well this time FIFA decided that Europe would be a nice destination for the Socceroos to visit instead of Asia or Africa in a bid to get the tournament. Their opponents would be perennial failures Scotland who had finished second in a tight group that had in the end killed their legendary manager Jock Stein who had died from a heart attack moments after their 1-1 draw with Wales in Cardiff that saw them through to the next phase.

With every other second placed country in the UEFA group stage having a far better record the Scots would face Australia, FIFA having to find a place to shove this extra team somewhere. With some guy called Alex Ferguson (heard of him?) now in control it would be a two legged play off in November/December 1985 that would decide who would make up the last side to be part of the World Cup in Mexico. The Scots were no easy beats. They featured a heap of stars including the Liverpool trio Steve Nicol, Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness, Celtic legends Frank McAvennie, Roy Aitken and Paul McStay, the Aberdeen star duo of Gordon Strachan and the hard nosed defender Alex McLeish along with Rangers’ legendary striker Davie Cooper.

The first leg would be played at Hampden Park in Glasgow in late November, not exactly top weather was expected. Arok sent his side out unchanged and playing to their strengths like they had done against bogey sides New Zealand and Israel…it didn’t help. After holding the fort for the first 45 minutes Scotland finally got a goal past Australia in the second half and it came through Cooper. The second wasn’t far off and on the hour McAvennie scored a second that had Australia and Mad Dog Arok (as the Scottish press had dubbed him) further in to the mire. One goal from either side of the Glasgow divide and Australia had it all to do in the return leg.

With the second leg in Australia Arok knew he had the advantage. If he had his way the game would be played in Darwin and on bitumen in the middle of wet season, the Scots wouldn’t know what hit them! But like many things in life that are inevitable such death and taxes the Australian Soccer Federation shot themselves in the foot again. For the most important Socceroos game since 1974 the ASF brains thought that playing the game in Melbourne which is the closest to Europe in both weather and look would be the venue for the match.

Before the match the ASF decided to also be more of a sport and water the pitch before, nice one. Scotland went out with a rather defensive team that included the additions of Richard Gough, McStay, David Speedie and Willy Miller. Arok brought in West Aussie Robbie Dunn and Jimmy Patikas (neither of them a striker) to try and get the goals needed with Mitchell and Kosmina to hopefully be supplied. In front of almost 30,000 fans at Olympic Park (hard to imagine really) Australia huffed and puffed but under the gin blossom faced Ferguson the Scots were solid as a brick shithouse and wouldn’t be dictated to.

The keeper Jim Leighton was particularly strong and repelled four decent chances for the Aussies. 0-0 it finished and Scotland were through while Australia lamented another failure. The damage had been done in the first leg 2-0 but it had also been done in the lead up to the event with Australian officials having no idea on how to use our unique position to our advantage. We wouldn’t learn until 2005.

At least we’ve been in to the second round of the World Cup and Scotland hasn’t I guess. That’s something.

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Glory Guerrillas Producer and Co-Host. Contributer to Football Nation Radio and Football West. Worships at the feet of the mighty Cats, Socceroos, Matildas, West Perth, Glory and Glasgow's Green and White most of the time.


  1. Love the names and memories that your series keeps bringing up. Thanks Dennis.

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