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John Aloisi's penalty is the greatest moment in Australian footballing history

No Australian sports fans will ever forget 'That Night'. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
Expert
7th June, 2018
63
2298 Reads

There could only be one. When John Aloisi blasted home from the penalty spot in Homebush, he notched the greatest moment in Socceroos history.

The first thing that hit you was the noise. All around the ground now known as ANZ Stadium – not least in the densely-packed bar en route to the stadium – you could hear noise.

The noise of people chatting. The clink of glasses being collected. The chants of the Uruguay fans massed outside the turnstiles growing louder by the minute.

If ever Socceroos fans wanted to experience a genuine world-class atmosphere, this was the game.

The second leg of Australia’s intercontinental playoff against Uruguay in November 2005 has taken on folkloric proportions.

Judging by the number of people who say they were there, it’s quite possibly the best-attended football match of all time.

But even for the more than 82,000 fans who actually were in attendance, it’s hard to describe the noise.

It started as a low roar before kick-off, then rose to a frantic pitch when the two teams emerged from the tunnel. And it reached a crescendo during the Uruguayan national anthem.

Sepp Blatter was reportedly incensed when Australian fans booed the Uruguayan anthem.

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But he didn’t know the history. And he scarcely understood the significance.

And – perhaps more importantly – he ignored the fact that the Uruguayans did the same thing to the Australian anthem in Montevideo!

The Socceroos lost that first leg 1-0. You’d struggle to find a team more confident of mastering its fate despite going into a second leg a goal down.

That’s partly because the crowd was so loud on the night. And partly because the Socceroos were a star-studded side.

And partly, let’s be honest, because of Guus Hiddink.

‘Aussie Guus,’ as he affectionately became known, was Football Federation Australia’s not-so-secret weapon.

A coach who exuded charm and relied as much on charisma as any tactical nous, the vastly experienced Dutchman was calmness personified in the white-hot confines of Homebush.

He somehow got his charges to relax – despite the occasion, in spite of the noise, and despite Alvaro Recoba missing a gilt-edged chance early on in the piece.

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And when he hooked Tony Popovic after barely half an hour – the colossal central defender had picked up an early booking – his introduction of Harry Kewell changed the game.

Kewell will go down as one of the most talented Australian footballers in history, yet his most telling contribution was undoubtedly a horrible miscue.

Lucky Mark Bresciano was on hand to smash home the loose ball. His trademark Spartacus celebration was at odds with the pandemonium raging in the stands.

In truth, Bresciano’s goal was more of a relief than anything. It didn’t feel like the Socceroos were on the path to the Germany as much as it felt like they could now simply relax and play football.

But there wasn’t a whole lot of football played for the remaining hour. It might have spawned the most famous penalty shoot-out in Socceroos history, but few fans today could tell you what – if anything – happened in extra-time.

They don’t need to. We all know what happened next.

Kewell slotted home his cool-as-you-like penalty. Mark Schwarzer parried from Dario Rodriguez.

Lucas Neill and Gustavo Varela then traded successful spot-kicks. “Team spirit for the jersey!” quipped Craig Foster on the TV commentary.

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Then Tony Vidmar and Fabian Estoyanoff both slotted home.

Before, finally, disaster struck for the Socceroos.

Mark Viduka is fondly remembered as one of Australia’s greats, but he rolled his spot-kick agonisingly wide. And all those painful memories of past heartbreaks came flooding back.

“People miss penalty kicks,” said Foster – fading fast – in the commentary box. “Roberto Baggio missed. Michel Platini missed.”

“He’s been a great captain. It’s now up to Mark Schwarzer. This would be a great one to save.”

Famous last words.

Schwarzer’s subsequent save deserves its place in pantheon as one of the most heroic feats ever performed in a Socceroos jersey.

But it’s largely overshadowed by what happened next.

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As John Aloisi strode confidently to the penalty spot, it felt like time was standing still. It was as though all the air had been sucked out of the stadium.

With the weight of the nation on his shoulders and watched by one of the largest audiences in Australian television history, Aloisi stepped forward with the chance to exorcise 32 years of frustration with one well-placed spot-kick.

Was there ever any doubt?

The noise when he scored – deafening before the game – was now indescribable.

It wasn’t just the greatest moment in Socceroos history, it was one of the best ever moments in Australian sport.

Until now. History is worth remembering, but records are made to be broken.

The Socceroos have never progressed beyond the second round, but that’s the task that stands before Bert van Marwijk and his team in Russia.

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!

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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.