Top 100 World Cup Moments (From the Aussie P.O.V.): 71-Worse Than Franco (1981)

Steve Sumner, Grant Turner and Steve Woodin celebrate an All Whites goal (Source: ONE Sport)

Believe it or not the ASF learned from their mistakes when it came to the poor preparation for Australia getting to Argentina 1978 and actually employed someone that wasn’t a klepto or had just coached at state level, they hired German coach Rudi Gutendorf. Gutendorf was a bit like Kane in the Kung Fu television show, he wandered the earth seeking knowledge and had coached at over 20 clubs or countries before taking the Australian gig in 1981 (he would go on to coach 18 national teams, a record).

To get to Spain ’82 Australia would have to top a qualifying group full of New Zealand and the other also rans of Oceania before going in to a final group stage much like the one from the 2010 campaign. A bevy of promising stars were coming through in to the Socceroos ranks with Melbourne Knights legend Alan Davidson, Gary Cole and a young David Mitchell who would go on to play in the reserves of many large teams in Europe.

Gutendorf spent the ASF’s extra funds on matches against Greece, Czechoslovakia, England, Northern Ireland and Mexico amongst other national tours to help prepare. First up in the campaign was a vital home and away set of games against New Zealand. The first one would be at graveyard for Australia football in Mount Smart Stadium on Anzac Day 1981 with the crowd seeing a fighting 3-3 draw between the two sides but to be honest the Socceroos should have (on paper) caned them.

Young and then NSL based Eddie Krncevic scored a double as Australia scored three goals in the first half, Sumner scoring for the Kiwis with 10 minutes to go to take it to 3-3. In the return leg it all went wrong for Australia with a meek 2-0 loss to the All Whites at the SCG. Right behind the 8-ball once again, virtually out of the running and the campaign was only two games old. After this humiliation Gutendorf had the gall to come out and say ‘Australia still has a chance to qualify’ in a very Iraqi Information Minister circa 2003 like press conference.

The knives were out and the unpopular Gutendorf was turfed and Frank Arok got his first crack at the job as a caretaker to the actual caretaker in Les Schienflug who was overseas at the time. Arok got the players back onside and following a 2-0 win over Indonesia in Melbourne and a win over the Taiwan at home the hope was still there. Hope was definitely still there when New Zealand dropped points and Australia thrashed Fiji home (10-0) and away (4-1).

With the final two matches away from home experience was needed but the coaching staff decided to go for youth in a quite baffling decision and Australia promptly lost to Indonesia 1-0 making it certain that New Zealand would go through with a 0-0 draw against Taiwan to finish on a rather drab yet fitting note. Considering the preparation and money poured in to this campaign it was a disaster for Australia. Scheinflug would be demoted and coached the youth teams (taking the Joeys to the U-17 World Cup Final in 1999) while Arok would take over for the next campaign.

Another footnote on the disaster that was the bid to get to Spain ’82 was when Scheinflug was spying on New Zealand when they played an unknown Polynesian team. Due to stupid mismanagement and understanding of the transport situation getting back to the hotel in said country Scheinflug was forced to ride on the New Zealand team bus which pleased the All Whites no end. The kiwi players all piped with a rousing version of the Dad’s Army song for the German born Scheinflug with the lyrics “Who do you think you’re kidding Mr Scheinflug if you think New Zealand’s done”.

Yet another embarrassing chapter in the Socceroos history of trying to get to the World Cup. New Zealand would qualify for Spain 82 in what was their World Cup debut.

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.

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