The Socceroos’ history stems from the first Australian national football team which was convened in 1922. The nickname ‘Socceroos’ was coined by journalist Tony Horstead in 1967, but it wasn’t until reaching the 1974 World Cup finals that the side came to prominence.
After switching to the Asian Football Confederation in 2005, the Socceroos confirmed their second World Cup finals appearance the same year thanks to an aggregate win over South American powerhouses Uruguay on penalties in their final round of qualifiers. John Aloisi’s match-winning penalty kick will remain as one of the most iconic moments in Australian sporting history for quite some time yet.
A respectable Round of 26 finish at the World Cup in 2006 – in which Italy only just scraped past the Socceroos thanks to a contentious last-minute penalty – was followed by a less impressive Asian Cup debut in 2007. In sweltering conditions in south-east Asia, Australia crashed out on penalties in the quarter-finals against fierce rivals Japan.
The Socceroos sealed qualification for their second consecutive World Cup appearance in 2009, and went into the 2010 tournament with high expectations for an experienced squad under the instruction of Dutch coach Pim Verbeek. However, the tournament began disastrously with a 4-0 loss to Germany, and the Socceroos were bundled out in the first round.
Under new coach Holger Osieck, the Socceroos enjoyed a far more successful 2011 Asian Cup, making it all the way to the final before losing in extra-time to Japan.
Osieck did guide the side to the third-straight World Cup qualification, but with less than a year to go to the tournament, the German coach was sacked after overseeing two 6-0 losses – one against Brazil, the other against France – within the space of a month.
Osieck’s departure paved the way for Ange Postecoglou to take the reigns of the national side, and while the Socceroos didn’t win a game in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the tournament was still considered something of a success. Placed in the toughest group, Australia pushed Chile all the way before eventually going down 3-1, and gave the Netherlands a mighty fright in one of the games of the tournament.
After going behind early, Tim Cahill equalised with a sublime left-foot volley seconds later, and Mile Jedinak had Socceroos fans dreaming of the impossible when he put Australia in front from the penalty spot. Unfortunately, the Netherlands struck back soon after, before Memphis Depay’s winner condemned the Socceroos to a 3-2 loss.
Australia could only put up a meek performance in their final game against Spain, and lost 3-0.
The building blocks for the 2015 Asian Cup had been laid in 2014, and Postecoglou would oversee the biggest success in Australian football history in the home tournament.
A loss to South Korea in the group stage placed Australia on the same side of the draw as Japan, but when the Blue Samurai lost to the United Arab Emirates in the quarter-finals, the Socceroos’ path to the final was clear.
Waiting for them in the decider was South Korea but, unlike in the teams’ first meeting of the tournament, it would be Australia who emerged victorious. The Socceroos took the lead through Massimo Luongo in the first half, before Son Heung-min sent the game into extra-time with a last-gasp equaliser. Australia would not be denied, though, with James Troisi striking midway through extra-time to give the Socceroos a 2-1 win and their maiden Asian Cup title.
Currently, the Socceroos are into the last phase of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, sitting third in their group just a point behind joint-leaders Saudi Arabia and Japan. The top two nations progress directly through to the World Cup in Russia, while the third-placed side has to go through a series of playoff ties to progress to the tournament.