- Capital: Canberra
- National Languages: English
- Nicknames: Socceroos [men’s side]; Matildas [women’s side]
- Association: Football Australia (FA)
- FIFA Code: AUS
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Round of 16 (2006)
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Quarter Finals (2007, 2011 & 2015)
- Best Asian Cup Result (Men): WINNERS (2015)
- Best Asian Cup Result (Women): WINNERS (2010)
- Best AFF Cup Result (Men): n/a
- Best AFF Cup Result: (Women): WINNERS (2008)
- Best OFC Nations Cup Result (Men): WINNERS (1980, 1996, 2000 & 2004)
- Best OFC Nations Cup Result (Women): WINNERS (1994, 1998 & 2003)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 14th (September 2009)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 4th (December 2017)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 102nd (November 2014)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 16th (October 2006)
- Most Capped Player: Cheryl Salisbury – 151 caps
- Top Scorer: Tim Cahill – 50 goals
The Commonwealth of Australia is the sixth-largest country in the world by total area, and the largest country within Oceania. Australia is situated southeast of the large Indonesia archipelago and separated by the Timor Sea, south of Papua New Guinea, and northwest of its main sporting rival New Zealand with the two countries separated by the Tasman Sea. Originally an important part of the British Empire, it became a Dominion in 1907 and adopted the Statute of Westminster in 1942 which granted the country independence, although this was formalised legally with the passing of the Australia Act in 1986 which severed the last remaining legal links between the UK and Australia.
Football has been played in Australia since the late 19th century with British colonists bringing the game over to the then crown colony, although throughout its history, the sport has often been overshadowed by cricket, rugby league, and rugby union, in which Australia has been much more successful on an international level for a longer period (cricket especially, which was the first sport which Australia beat England in) with the nation winning the World Cups in those respective sports. In addition, Australia’s own domestic sport of Aussie Rules Football (which is similar to Gaelic football played in Ireland) has seen more interest amongst the domestic market than soccer originally.
It wouldn’t be until 1922 when the Australian soccer team made their international debut, playing in a 3-1 defeat away in New Zealand, although after decades of being a regional touring side and competing within the Olympics football tournament, they would formally become a full member of FIFA in 1963 after having been a provisional member for seven years prior. The Socceroos subsequently qualified for their very first World Cup in 1974 after losing in qualification playoff matches in the previous two tournaments by beating South Korea in a third playoff, and it saw the Australians compete in a historic group alongside Chile, and the two Germanys – West (the hosts) and East. Two losses against the two Germanys ended their progression hopes but a goalless draw against Chile in the final group game ensured they would exit the tournament with a historic point although not managing to score a goal during the debut tournament.
It would be a further 32 years of hurt before Australia would qualify for another World Cup. There had been many close encounters of qualification during that period, most famously for the 1998 World Cup, but Australia would often fall at the final hurdle in inter-continental playoffs losing to Scotland, Argentina, Iran, and Uruguay between 1986 and 2002. Finally the hoodoo was emotionally overcome when qualifying for the 2006 World Cup when Australia’s first ‘golden generation’ enacted revenge upon Uruguay from the playoff of four years previously to progress to the finals via a penalty shootout. The Socceroos would achieve progression to the knockout stage where they faced Italy in the Round of 16, but were defeated by a controversial injury-time penalty to lose 1-0.
That would be the final time Australia would qualify for the World Cup as an OFC member when in 2006, they became one of a small number of countries to move between confederations by becoming a member of the AFC. Since being a member of the Asian confederation, the Aussies have been regular qualifiers for the World Cup via the AFC route by qualifying for the 2010, 2014, and 2018 World Cups as an Asian nation but have yet to progress beyond the group stage in the last three tournaments. This cannot be said of the women’s national team who are currently one of the best sides in women’s international football. The Matildas, graced by such players like forward Sam Kerr (who is considered one of the best players in the world currently), have qualified for the past seven Women’s World Cups and reached the quarter-finals on three occasions between 2007 and 2015. They are also scheduled to be co-hosts of the upcoming 2023 Women’s World Cup (alongside New Zealand), and will be naturally considered as one of the favourites for the upcoming tournament on home soil.
Since Australia’s switch to the AFC, they have become of the strongest nations within the Asian confederation with the Matildas winning the Asian Cup in 2010 and finishing as runners-up in both 2014 and 2018, whilst the Socceroos were finalists in 2011 before winning the men’s tournament in 2015 when hosting the continental competition. At the time of writing, it is looking good that the men’s side would qualify for their fifth World Cup and Asian Cup in a row with the Socceroos currently top of their qualification group with a 100% record, with the top two positions in the group automatically reaching the Asian Cup as well as progression to the Third Round of World Cup qualification. Should they reach the Third Round, they will certainly be one of the strong favourites to obtain a qualification spot for Qatar 2022.
Talking about a national team who are one of a few countries to have moved football confederations when they moved from the OFC to the AFC in 2006 and ultimately winning the 2015 Asian Cup on home soil, as well as qualifying for the past four World Cups, we interviewed the excellent Chris Edwards. Chris is an Australian football fan who has been living in China for over seven years and believes that youth development is the future for national teams, and thus is always interested in seeing how clubs around the world use their academies to maximum effect. His favourite teams are Perth Glory FC, Shenzhen FC, Columbus Crew, and Crystal Palace, and has visited 192 grounds in 13 countries for 948 matches. To find their social media accounts, follow the links below:
Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
In terms of the best-ever player, there is considerable dispute over this question. I would suggest that Mark Schwarzer (goalkeeper) and Tim Cahill (forward) would both be deemed to be the best-ever players for Australia, given their roles in the Golden Generation. If anything, I would lean towards Mark, given the positive role he has taken in Australian football since then.
In terms of the manager, many would point towards either Guus Hiddink [who led Australia to the 2006 World Cup] or Ange Postecoglou. Since leading Australia to 2015 Asian Cup victory and qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Postecoglou has since won the J.League and is possibly the most successful Australian manager in recent history.
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?
Cult heroes are the late Johnny Warren, the late Les Murray, and Craig Foster. All three of them have long argued for promotion and relegation within the Australian leagues, as well as providing a better outlet for Australian footballers.
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player in the Australian national side currently?
I’d say the best player (and many would argue with me on this one) would be Stoke City defender Harry Souttar. At 6’6″, he towers over most players in set pieces, and has a scary scoring record of 4 goals from 2 international fixtures. He’s currently playing as a centre-back, having played 43 games this season for 1 goal for Stoke City in the English Championship.
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
Australia has not played an international fixture since 14 November 2019. That is the thing that is most concerning right now, given that we will be playing the next set of World Cup qualifiers and Asian Cup qualifiers in Kuwait in June – a region that we do not traditionally play well in.
Q. Are there any Australian players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
The A-League this season has seen an explosion of talent from the academies due to the congested fixture list. Every club has had exciting young players this season, which has resulted in significant interest across the globe.
From my point of view, Alou Kuol (19-year-old forward who currently plays for Central Coast Mariners) has been fantastic, shown by him being picked up by Stuttgart for the 2021-22 season. In fact, just watching the A-League has shown some amazing young talent.
In terms of players that are playing overseas, I’m excited by Harry Souttar (22), Awer Mabil (25-year-old winger playing for Danish club FC Midtjylland), and Brandon Borrello (25-year-old right winger currently on loan at German club Fortuna Düsseldorf from Freiburg). They have a lot of potential given their age.
The U-23 squad has enormous potential and are getting a lot of game time both within the A-League and across the world.
Q. Looking at the Australia’s international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?
It’s either winning the 2015 AFC Asian Cup at home or defeating Uruguay on penalties to qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Both of those marked new pages in our history as a nation.
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
Easily, the worst results would be the loss to Iran in 1997, missing out on qualifying for the 1998 World Cup in France. Immediately following Australia’s second goal, spectator Peter Hore, known for disrupting major events, ran onto the field and cut up Iran’s goal net, causing a halt in play. That pretty much changed the game and Iran came back to win the game on away goals. Many Australian football fans remember that game in tears.
A second nomination would be the game against Italy in the 2006 FIFA World Cup. We are (still) convinced that Italy should not have been awarded the penalty in the last minute of the game, and Australia could have won the match in extra time and continued into the quarter-finals.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Australian national team?
The best thing about a Socceroos fan is that we are usually good for a win against most of our confederation colleagues. We generally know who is going to cause us trouble.
The worst thing is that it is hard to compete against the big nations outside of the AFC. Every now and then we might grab a competitive draw or win, but it is not often.
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
For the most part, Australian fans have adapted different chants and songs from other clubs and countries. However, specific songs do not come to mind – in fairness, it’s been a while since I’ve been at an international fixture.
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
The iconic shirt is the “spew” shirt from the 1994 World Cup qualifying. I still want to get my hands on one. The Matildas (women’s national team) wore their version of it recently and it was hugely popular.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Australian national team?
I hope that they top their World Cup Qualifying/Asian Cup Qualifying group in Kuwait, which should set them up well for the next round of WCQs. Games against Kuwait and Jordan could get tricky, but we have beaten them already once in this round. The final round will be interesting for WCQs, given how some groups are panning out… but that’s a whole separate discussion.
A massive thank you very much to Chris for answering our questions on the Socceroos. Remember you can find their excellent social media accounts in the links at the top of the blogpage.
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