You are here

A Golden Night

FIFA World Cup - 2006 Qualifiers - OFC / CONMEBOL Playoffs - Match 2
Socceroos vs Uruguay
at Stadium Australia, Sydney on 2005-05-08T13:02:00
Score: 1-0 (1-0); ET: 1-0 (1-0); Penalties: 4-2
Scorers: Marco Bresciano (35')
Official Info: FIFA Details
Previous Match: World Cup Qualifier - Part I

What a game! What a night! Dad, Naruto and I were there last night to see Australia defeat Uruguay to qualify for the World Cup Finals for the first time in 32 long years. We've finally done it. After being "0-1 down at half-time" - O'Neill speaking after the first leg in Monte Video - we leveled the score in normal time at home, couldn't break through in a nerve-wracking extra time, before triumphing 4-2 in a thrilling penalty shoot-out.

So many memories from last night:

  • Leaving home wearing gold. My Dad and I both had wallabies jerseys on - the best we could do. Our neighbours across the road asked us if the wallabies were playing. It seemed incredible that someone didn't know what was on tonight.
  • Catching the special event bus out to Homebush. Everyone was in gold and in good spirits.
  • Arriving at the ground you could feel the buzz. We bumped into Naruto's football coach. We went in and found our seats, just above the corner flag at the south-eastern corner. We're all given gold cards (slight bigger than A4) with "Goal!" or "Go Australia! " on them. The ground is filling up and it's still an hour to kick-off.
  • I take Naruto to the toilet. When I return I see Adam Spencer interviewing John Travolta on the big screen. It's surreal, what is Travolta doing here? I later figure it out - he's there to spruik Qantas.
  • The Aussies come out to warm up to a huge roar.
  • A Qantas jet flies low over the stadium.
  • The teams come out: the Aussies to a massive roar; the Uruguayans to a chorus of boos. They raise their hands and clap the crowd; the boos don't phase us they seem to be saying.
  • In Uruguay, the crowd booed during our national anthem and it was very evident on the TV. The crowd returns the favour here. We don't join in - it's poor sportsmanship - but it doesn't matter, the booing is so loud the Uruguayan anthem is completely drowned out. I mean it, I can't hear the music or the words from the poor chap leading the singing.
  • For our anthem it's the best I've ever heard. Football fans haven't been too bad in the past, especially compared to rugby league fans who are hopeless. The best 'til now have been the rugby fans. Especially at a Bledisloe Cup match. There the anthem is sung with gusto. But this is unbelievable. Again the words, this time from the starlet brought in to sing the anthem, are completely drowned out by the crowd.
  • Finally, a few minutes after 8:00pm, kick-off: we start nervously but playing good football. The noise from the crowd is loud and constant. We're determined to carry the Socceroos over the line.
  • Uruguay's tactics become quickly apparent. A throw-in is delayed over which ball to use. Clearly they're going to stall and waste as much time as possible. They're playing for 0-0 and perhaps the chance to snatch an away goal, which would seal a win - there's no way we'll score two to force a draw or three to force a win.
  • Recoba makes a clean break, he's one on one with Schwarzer. If he scores it's all over. He shoots from just outside the 18-yard box, just past the diving Schwarzer and it goes wide. Our hearts start beating again.
  • 15 minutes in I realise I've shredded my gold card I'm so nervous.
  • 30 minutes in Hiddink makes his first substitution. Kewell is on for Popovic. Clearly a strategic change to bring more attack. And before half-time is most unusual, but I guess there's only 60 minutes left in the entire campaign.
  • 33 minutes in: the Goal. A sweet touch from Viduka, Kewell shoots or passes, I can't see, it comes to Bresciano, who brings the house down with a quality finish on his left foot. It's game on, the aggregate score is level, we've caught up! Anything is possible now.
  • Half-time: we're leading 1-0. The crowd is buzzing. We relive the goal and the nervous moments. The waiting is unbearable, but we need to rest our voices and nerves. After 15 long minutes, the teams come back out.
  • The Socceroos are attacking the goal at our end now. We're just above the players as corner after corner is taken. We grow frustrated as several go straight to the goalkeeper.
  • Kewell makes a break down the wing. He's double-, no triple-teamed. He tries to go round them but is tackled. But the three Uruguayans get in each others way. The ball is still in play. We yell at Kewell. He reacts and gets to the ball first. The crowd roars its approval.
  • The second half ends. Overall it's a tie, our best result in 32 years. Now we must play extra-time. We argue with those around us about whether it's golden goal, whether away goals in extra-time count double. The ground announcer settles the argument.
  • After 30 minutes of extra time we're drained. There were no guilt-edged chances, but both sides could have won it. Uruguay had perhaps the best chance, their striker shooting just wide in front of us with a couple of minutes to go.
  • We're down to a shootout. We win the toss and go first - the best result - you never want to be chasing in a shootout. Uruguay's two best players are off the field and can't take part.
    • Kewell steps up and calmly, masterly buries his shot. 1-0 and the crowd roars.
    • Rodriguez balks twice. Schwarzer is unmoved. The shot. Schwarzer saves. The crowd goes mad. We're 1-0 up after a shot each. The pressure is all on them now.
    • Lucas Neill is calm. He buries it. 2-0 and the crowd roars.
    • Varela (?) shoots - just under Schwarzer. Two saves in a row would have been unbelievable. 2-1 up.
    • Vidmar is all quality. 3-1 up. You can almost taste victory.
    • Estoyanoff (?) is equally good though. He sends Schwarzer the wrong way. 3-2.
    • Viduka steps up. He's struggled in front of goal for Australia. Now's his chance to make amends and put it almost beyond Uruguay. Unbelievably he puts it wide. It's one of the worst penalties I've seen. I look around. You can see the nerves in the older eyes. Have we found a new way to fall short? It's still 3-2.
    • Dad, a rugby man, is unfazed: "Don't worry. He'll save the next one." It's Schwarzer's turn for some gamemanship. What's he doing - checking the ball is on the right spot? Salazjet (?) steps up with a chance to make it 3-3, shoots and Schwarzer saves it. It's a brilliant save and the crowd has gone bezerk. At 3-2, we're a kick away from the dream. All the doubts are gone. We're going, we're going.
    • Aloisi steps up. The noise level drops. Everybody is straining to see the kick. He moves in. It's a goal! The crowd goes absolutely mad. It's hard to describe the sheer pandemonium. We've won the shootout 4-2. We're going to Germany. All those years of waiting. All those painful losses. Wiped away in an instant. The crowd is still going off. It is simply unbelievable. The rest is a blur. There's a loud bang - streamers come from the roof. At some point they play Land Down Under - what else?
  • There's some formalities. The whole squad is presented to the crowd. Schwarzer gets the biggest cheer and deservedly so. There's Thwaite - an SUSFC old boy - I played 6-a-side against him just four years ago, now he could be off to a World Cup.
  • Dad heads home. Naruto and I stay on. We leave a little later and catch the bus home. The atmosphere on the bus is surprisingly quiet, reflective. I relive the game. It's after 11 when we get home.

Today there is no other news story. Every paper, every channel carries the story. The goal and the shootout are repeated endlessly. I finally see the replay of the goal. Kewell's touch was a mis-hit shot. The ball bobbled to Bresciano - almost impossible to defend. Finally a bit of luck goes our way. Schwarzer's saves were fantastic. The Irish at work congratulate me. Last night was the greatest moment in my life1.

1Except for my wedding and birth of my children of course :)