Top 100 World Cup Moments (From the Aussie P.O.V.): 82-Don’t Cry For Me John Kosmina (1977)

Following their amazing effort to qualify for West Germany in 1974 Australia were up for more history making heroics for the 1978 World Cup which would be held in Argentina.  The then Australian Soccer Federation had admired Rale Rasic’s efforts from 1974 so much that they sacked him following the World Cup. Why? Who knows. The ASF decided to hire an unknown journeyman from England to take over Rasic’s legacy and that man was Brian Green. Green had played at such massive clubs like Colwyn Bay and Exeter along with having little to no major experience.

Before you could say ‘route one English football’ Green was back off home after only two matches after he was put on a good behaviour bond for stealing two LPs from a record store in Melbourne.  Not only did Green have little experience but was also seemingly a kleptomaniac. The ASF had seemingly dodged a bullet but then made the quite stupid decision of overlooking Rasic returning or Johnny Warren taking over (the popular choices) to employ another unknown British ex-pat in Jim Shoulder. Shoulder got the team to play a heap of friendlies against Asian countries during 1976 and began to try and fill the void left by the loss of all the talent from 1974 with John Kosmina, future inaugural Glory coach Gary Marrochi and Todd Clarke all being blooded to help stand shoulder to shoulder with 1974 old boys like the captain Peter Wilson.

The lack of any general real 1974 vintage talent and the fact Shoulder was wasn’t really a tactical master soon turned the press, the fans and even some players against him. The campaign for Argentina ’78 kicked off in Fiji against Taiwan seeing as the Whitlam Government refused to grant visas to the Taiwan side, Australia won easily 3-0. In the return leg in Taiwan the home side tried going the hack but another goal by 1974 old boy Atti Abonyi and Kosmina saw Australia come from behind to win 2-1. After an embarrassing loss to Fiji in a friendly Australia then took on New Zealand and after winning 3-1 at the SCG endured a tame draw in New Zealand to make sure they finished top of the group.

The last qualifying round would be the big one and probably the biggest run of games Australia would had undertaken in trying to get to the World Cup so far. Drawn in a group of five with Iran, Hong Kong, South Korea and Kuwait Australia had to finish top of the group to get through. The Socceroos started off well enough by beating the football powerhouse Hong Kong 3-0 but then Shoulder’s naive tactics were exposed and they went down to back to back Asian champions Iran 1-0 at home and then scraped a win against the Koreans 2-1 thanks to a Kosmina double in the second half. The final home game in this glut was another crap performance when Kuwait defeated Australia 2-1 at the SCG, this left Australia second last in the group and needing a miracle to stay in contention with every game left in the group to be played away from home.

The miracle was almost materialising following drab 0-0 in South Korea and a morale boosting 5-2 win in Hong Kong but they still had to play in Kuwait and Iran. Play they did and defeated they were, Kuwait won 1-0 thanks to a second half strike to knock Australia out of the running for top spot. This was followed by another 1-0 loss in Tehran in front of 100,000 people, not the last time they would play in the Ayramere Stadium it must be said. The Socceroos would end up second last in the group and only ahead of group whipping boys Hong Kong with the very strong Iran side making it to its first ever World Cup shortly before their revolution. Shoulder would manage to do a Farina and hang on to his job following the elimination and justified backlash from the press.

He wouldn’t last long though, Shoulder was sacked following a three game series against Greece in 1978 which would be the only friendlies Australia would play that year. This was all a massive comedown from the achievements on the previous four years but the ASF had shot themselves in the foot getting rid of a technically gifted albeit mouthy coach in Rasic and replacing them with a dull as dishwater fish out of water with next to no experience. This wouldn’t be the first or last self administered failure by Australia’s governing body which seeped down to the team in a bid to get to a World Cup. Unfortunately this, like many other failures, was 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.


  1. The name Sir Arthur George springs to mind.
    Never trust Greeks bearing colonial monickers?
    “Thanks” for the reminder DG. I had been enjoying your series until now.

  2. It all depends. What were the two albums?

  3. Dennis Gedling says

    All is forgiven if one of them the Who Live at Leeds Tony.

    Peter, this was one of the more sane moments where we didn’t make it. We haven’t got to witchdoctors and Peter Hoare yet.

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