Remembering when a Charlie Yankos free-kick put Oz football on the map

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By Mike Tuckerman, Mike Tuckerman is a Roar Expert

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    Charlie Yankos: could hit a free-kick. (Photo by Tony Feder/GettyImages).

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    Continuing our countdown of the best moments in Socceroos history, we look back at a player who helped put Australian football on the map.

    Charlie Yankos might not be the first name on a teamsheet of Socceroos greats, but the former skipper did his fair share to pave the way for the golden generation that followed.

    The 1980s were a fallow period for the Socceroos.

    After finishing a dismal second to New Zealand in their 1982 qualifying group – the Kiwis eventually made their tournament debut in Spain – there was more disappointment in store when the Socceroos lost to a strong Scotland side to miss out on 1986 as well.

    And the following qualification campaign ended in familiar scenes of heartbreak at a packed Sydney Football Stadium in April 1989, when Italian referee Carlo Longhi added barely a minute of an additional time amid scenes of farcical time-wasting against an Israeli side for whom the 1-1 draw was enough to progress.

    The very first player to remonstrate with Longhi was none other than captain Charlie Yankos. It was his final game for the Socceroos.

    But in between the disappointment of missing out in consecutive qualifying campaigns, Yankos helped contribute to one of the best moments in Socceroos history.

    And perhaps – inadvertently at least – alerted Argentina to the fact that the Socceroos are not a team to be taken lightly.

    The 1988 Bicentennial Gold Cup was a curious tournament if ever there was one.

    Despite years in the international doldrums, Soccer Australia somehow managed to convince reigning world champions Argentina and the then number one ranked side in the world, Brazil, to make the long trek down under to play in a nationwide tournament to celebrate Australia’s bicentenary.

    Their presence was rounded out by Saudi Arabia – the reigning champions of Asia who were coached at the time by Brazilian great, Carlos Alberto Parreira.

    And the games were broadcast by the ABC, who had roped in the ever-candid Johnny Warren as analyst alongside a fresh-faced Martin Tyler as commentator.

    And Warren, true to form, was ropable when he saw the state of the Parramatta Stadium pitch for the game against the Saudis – which looked more like something you’d race dirt bikes on than host an international friendly.

    “I’m embarrassed as an Australian, as a soccer person, that the pitch is an absolute disgrace,” Warren raged.

    Some things never change.

    But one thing that did change was the way major football nations started to view the Socceroos.

    That’s because after a credible 1-0 defeat to Brazil in Melbourne – for whom Romario scored the only goal – and a comfortable 3-0 win over Saudi Arabia, the Socceroos then took on Argentina at the Sydney Football Stadium.

    And it was an Argentine side not without its fair share of talent – Oscar Ruggeri, Diego Simeone and Sergio Batista among them – even if Diego Maradona predictably failed to make the trip.

    The game was delicately poised at 1-1 after goals from those two warhorses, Paul Wade and Ruggeri, had cancelled each other out.

    Then up stepped Yankos to take his place in Socceroos history.

    “Just before half time we were awarded a free kick,” Yankos said years later.

    “I have been trying to hit the target in many, many games and most of the time the ball hits some spectator in the grandstand.

    “On this particular occasion, I can remember everyone just saying, hit it, hit it, hit the target and I just went for it.”

    He sure did. Yankos’ piledriver swerved viciously in the air and ended up flashing past Luis Islas in the Argentina goal.

    It was one of the most spectacular goals ever scored by a Socceroo. And it helped propel Australia to a shock 4-1 win over the visitors.

    The result meant Australia qualified for the final of the Gold Cup, where they went down 2-0 to Brazil at a packed Sydney Football Stadium.

    More importantly, it gave coach Frank Arok and his team the belief that they could take on the world’s best.

    And that’s exactly what they did at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, beating a powerful Yugoslavia in the group stage en route to reaching the quarter-finals.

    As we count down the greatest moments in Socceroos history, we want you to tell us what your favourites are. Have your say in the picker below!

    Check out the rest of the countdown:
    10. Australia’s performances – and Tim Cahill’s goal – in 2014
    9. When we almost qualified for USA 94
    8. Charlie Yankos’ stunning free-kick against Argentina
    7. Beating France and Brazil in 2001
    6. England 3, Australia 1: Beating the Poms in their own backyard
    5. Knocking Croatia out of Germany in the craziest game in Australian history
    4. Australia’s historic 3-1 win over Japan in Kaiserslautern
    3. Making our debut on the world stage in 1974
    2. Winning the Asian Cup in Australia
    1. John Aloisi’s penalty

    The Australian men’s football team is sure to produce some more memorable moments in Russia this year. Catch all the action in the best way possible by coming together with your friends and family and watching it on an epic big screen Samsung QLED TV. Explore the big-screen range.

    Haven’t seen your friends lately? Send them a personal message from Tim Cahill with TIMVITE and get ready to watch the big games.

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    The Crowd Says (25)

    • May 24th 2018 @ 6:57am
      Kangajets said | May 24th 2018 @ 6:57am | ! Report

      There was a fair bit of euphoria around beating Argentina at the time , and the Olympic gsmes were good too.
      I think our rugby league club even had a bbq watching the gold cup final , such was the interest . However, Brazil were just too good .

      I remember these games as if yesterday, I grew up thinking watching every Socceroos gsmes was compulsory. The Roos always seemed to punch above their weight in this era , and although maybe not a technical as today’s Roos , those part time Aussie’s were far more uninhibited creative , daring and less robotic then the current mob . Contrary to some people thoughts , they were not just a long ball team .

      The nsl was producing really good players around this time , who were leaving and doing well in Europe. It might have been this time that Farina got a chance in serie A

      I remember yankos scored another long range effort away to Israel once .

    • May 24th 2018 @ 7:44am
      Stin said | May 24th 2018 @ 7:44am | ! Report

      No video of it?

      • Roar Guru

        May 24th 2018 @ 7:55am
        Mark Young said | May 24th 2018 @ 7:55am | ! Report

        Here you go buddy!

        • Roar Guru

          May 24th 2018 @ 8:07am
          Griffo said | May 24th 2018 @ 8:07am | ! Report

          I remember that.

          Yeah that never gets old.

          Nor does Martin Tyler commentating a football game.

          Thanks for posting that.

          • May 24th 2018 @ 12:46pm
            lesterlike said | May 24th 2018 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

            “Nor does Martin Tyler commentating a football game.”

            Maybe 10 years ago, most people who watch the UK Sky Sports feed are getting pretty sick of him now and want some new blood for the big games instead of his tired cliches.

        • May 24th 2018 @ 8:58am
          Lionheart said | May 24th 2018 @ 8:58am | ! Report

          thank you Mark

        • May 24th 2018 @ 4:22pm
          Midfielder said | May 24th 2018 @ 4:22pm | ! Report

          I remember that goal and he is in my all time squad of 23 players.

    • May 24th 2018 @ 8:47am
      MQ said | May 24th 2018 @ 8:47am | ! Report

      Great memories. I’m glad Mark put up the clip because I had this memory that Yankos would take a massive run up for his free kicks, there was no guile involved. If my memory serves me well, Yankos returned to his Greek club the following week, copped a bit of schtick from his team mates, and then repeated the identical free kick in a club game.

    • May 24th 2018 @ 9:00am
      Lionheart said | May 24th 2018 @ 9:00am | ! Report

      would be nice to see some of this history folded into TV ads for football in Oz as we move into the WC

      • May 24th 2018 @ 10:38am
        Kangajets said | May 24th 2018 @ 10:38am | ! Report


      • May 24th 2018 @ 10:40am
        Kangajets said | May 24th 2018 @ 10:40am | ! Report

        I think mike is leading up to qualifying for the 1974 finals, and poor ray basrtz missing the tournament due to a Uruguayan karate chop

      • Roar Guru

        May 24th 2018 @ 1:44pm
        Griffo said | May 24th 2018 @ 1:44pm | ! Report

        That would stir up national passion more than ‘Cahilltex’ 😉

    • May 24th 2018 @ 10:48am
      Kangajets said | May 24th 2018 @ 10:48am | ! Report

      • May 24th 2018 @ 11:37am
        Lionheart said | May 24th 2018 @ 11:37am | ! Report

        thanks KJ.

    • May 24th 2018 @ 11:48am
      Kangajets said | May 24th 2018 @ 11:48am | ! Report

      Zelic goal against holland

      Have to see that

      • Roar Guru

        May 24th 2018 @ 1:46pm
        Griffo said | May 24th 2018 @ 1:46pm | ! Report

        I remember at the time seeing Zelic’s goal and thinking that I couldn’t believe what I just saw, even though you could sense he might have been angling to do that 😎

        Scored in the best Aussie strip of all time no less 😈

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