When unlikely hero Andrew Redmayne saved Peru’s sixth penalty on Tuesday morning, just before 7am on the eastern seaboard of Australia, my hands were visibly trembling.
I am certain many others around the country were living the exact same experience, as the Socceroos added yet another moment into Australian football folklore, with their penalty shootout win and World Cup qualification.
In a match where the Australians may well have claimed superiority across the first 90 minutes and with Peru perhaps more dangerous in the 30 extra that were played, the unforgiving pressure of the shootout format loomed as the most likely means by which the Socceroos fate would be decided
Let’s face it, as fans watching and knowing Socceroo history all too well, it was never going to be any other way.
The shootout played out with all the expected drama and tension, with Australia falling behind early before drawing level midway and securing the historic win with Redmayne’s save of the last kick of the game.
Socceroo fans kicked coffee tables all around the country when Martin Boyle’s opening effort was saved, leaped in the air when Luis Advincula found the woodwork five penalties later and woke neighbouring families when Alex Valera could not beat the Aussie shot-stopper at the death.
Stacked in and around those moments were solid and professional spot kicks from Aaron Mooy, Craig Goodwin, Ajdin Hrustic, Jamie Maclaren and Awer Mabil, men now destined to carry a treasured memory for life, no matter the results Australia achieves in Qatar.
It was as tense a scene as we have seen in Australian football since the moment John Aloisi sent the Socceroos through to their first World Cup in 32 years, when he too converted a spot kick against South American opposition in 2005.
There will be ample commentary around the win and the significance of the successful campaign; with things appearing far rosier now than they would have if fortune had favoured Peru.
However, there will be the odd scribe quick to point out that in their opinion, neither the Socceroos nor Peru were particularly impressive and are destined to make up the numbers in Group D later this year.
One such scribe may well be the Australian’s Will Swanton, who produced one of the most off-the-mark and publicly unappreciated sporting pieces in living memory, after the Socceroos edged their way past UAE to earn the right to tackle Peru.
Openly admitting to not really watching that closely, nor seemingly caring a great deal about the result of Socceroo matches, Swanton appeared to take great delight in ridiculing the team by asking, “Who are these blokes?”, something I guess many people would ask of a group of men whom they choose not to follow particularly closely.
It seems that without names like Tim Cahill, Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell, it is a little tricky for Australian sports fans like Swanton to even recognise a Socceroo player, or be aware of his skill and achievements.
Well let’s hope Swanton was watching and that he now has a better appreciation of who these “blokes” are.
They are, in fact, a group of men bound to return to Qatar in a few months’ time, proudly wearing one of the most famous and historical shirts in Australian sport.
They are a collection of professionals from right around the globe who enjoyed home advantage on just four occasions throughout the qualification campaign; men who clocked up endless kilometres to patriotically represent their country and players for whom thousands of Australians rose at godforsaken hours to support.
Sure, they probably owe us an apology after putting us through the ringer again, yet as Australian football continues to evolve towards an eventual position of financial security and broader public support, the Socceroos conjure the idea of the Aussie battler so accurately.
Despite all their limitations, weaknesses and the awkward moments that people like Swanton pounce upon to allude to what some perceive as Australian football’s backwater status, the Socceroos continue to do us all proud.
They masterfully held their nerve against Peru, won against the odds and will need to do the same against France, Demark and Tunisia in Qatar this summer; with navigation to the knock-out phase of the tournament looking as challenging as ever.
But for now, it is time to celebrate and an opportunity for people like Swanton to learn a little more about our players. After all, he will hopefully be cheering them on in the World Cup.