To get your attention: Harry Kewell! Tim Cahill! Lucas Neill! (Double-L surnames!?) Handsome men!
This is: the Australian national football team! (totes not obvious, yah?)
The bosses: Football Federation Australia (FFA)
Represent!: Asian Football Confederation
Deck out in: green and gold
Y’all know us as: the Socceroos (as if you couldn’t tell by the very subtle font above)
Flyin’ low without this sponsor: Qantas Airlines (full name: Qantas Socceroos)... which is good because the boys do shittonnes of travelling
Fashion statement: Nike
HBIC Coach: Holger Osieck
HBIC Captain: the dashingly handsome Lucas Neill
In line for FIFA’s throne: (as of 15 December 2010) rank #26
Haters: to the far left
Kangaroos: are totally badass
The Socceroos pre-2006, the move to the AFC, our Asian Cup and World Cup campaigns, the coaches who took us there, our kickass Women’s team (who WON THE 2010 WOMEN’S ASIAN CUP(!!!!!) I might ever-so-subtly add), and the men’s team’s 2011 Asian Cup squad members. All here (with a healthy dose of tl;dr) under the cuts!
Note that I will mostly stick to calling it “soccer", because that’s generallyyyyy what we’re used to calling it in Australia (SOCCERoos, y/y?). We have another sport, Australian Rules football (or AFL (Australian Football League) for short), which is what we refer to as "football" or "footy", so it gets a bit confusing. And for the record, it is NOTHING like the ‘football’ most of you know. AFL is more like a bastardisation of chaotic rugby with a bit more kicking. But then, I’m a biased soccer fan, sooo...
Now, without further ado, obligatory kangaroo invites you in!
(that’s my pet kangaroo, her name is Milly and she is 2 years old*. :’)
*I am joking. We do not generally keep kangaroos as pets in Australia.
And so, we begin...
Pre-2006: Australia With The OFC
Pre-2002: Battles Not Won
Prior to moving to the Asian Football Confederation, Australia belonged to the Oceanian Football Confederation and was its largest nation and strongest team. Being from the smallest confederation, the OFC are not guaranteed a spot in the World Cup (usually only given a “half" spot) and have to play intercontinental play-offs in order to qualify.
The Socceroos’ first World Cup appearance was in West Germany 1974, where they would be drawn into a tough group against Chile and the host nations East Germany and West Germany, and ultimately bow out without scoring any goals, though they would manage a scoreless draw against Chile.
From then until their next World Cup appearance in 2006 (coincidentally, also the next World Cup hosted by Germany), the Socceroos would constantly fail to qualify, often narrowly. In the 1994 World Cup qualifiers, the OFC were only given a quarter spot, which meant that the qualified team from the zone they had to play two intercontinental play-offs. After defeating Canada in the first play-off, the second play-off pitted Australia against Argentina in 1993. The first leg was a home game in Sydney, which ended in a 1 - 1 draw; the second leg was played in Argentina, where Australia would lose by a heartbreakingly close 1 - 0. The legend himself, Diego Maradona, was reportedly impressed by the Socceroos’ performance and told then-captain, Paul Wade, “Your tears of pain will one day be tears of joy".
(Please note that any questions asked about the kit in the last panel will be ignored. I don’t know what they were thinking, either.)
A Change In The Winds
In April 2001, the Socceroos played Tonga in the OFC’s qualifying tournament for the 2002 World Cup and won the game with a whopping 22 goals to nil, setting a new world record. But as though that wasn’t enough, just two days later they completely smashed that world record after playing American Samoa (admittedly, one of the weakest teams in the world) and winning 31 - 0. Australian striker Archie Thompson also set a world record for the most goals scored in a single game (13 goals).
After coming out top of their qualifying group (with 66 goals scored(!!!) and none conceded), the Socceroos proceeded to beat New Zealand 6 - 1 in the final round, and qualify for the CONMEBOL/OFC Intercontinental Play-Offs. Their opponent was Uruguay, to whom Australia would lose 3 - 1 on aggregate, thus bringing Australia’s 2002 World Cup campaign to an end.
Despite failing to make the World Cup, Australia’s overwhelming qualifying campaign was enough for critics and fans to suggest once again that, in order for soccer in the country to advance, Australia needed to move away from the OFC and head into the Asian Football Confederation (after previously failed applications). But it would be a few more years before the next major step in the progression of Australian soccer.
Road to 2006: Australia’s Qualification And First World Cup Appearance Since 1974
Road to 2006: World Cup Qualification
In July of 2005, Coach Guus Hiddink took over the Socceroos, and it would be one of the most memorable years in Socceroos history.
In the qualifying stages for the OFC zone, Australia faced the Solomon Islands for the final spot, won 9 - 1 on aggregate, and headed for the CONMEBOL/OFC Intercontinental Play-offs, where, once again, they would face Uruguay for a place in the World Cup (déjà vu, anyone?). But this time, the Socceroos were better prepared.
By the second leg in Sydney, the aggregate score was 1 - 1 by the end of extra-time, and they were forced to take a penalty shoot-out. In what would become one of the most famous events of Australian sporting history, striker John Aloisi, along with goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer who saved 2 penalties, cemented himself in Socceroos hero status when he scored the winning penalty kick that finally took the Socceroos to the World Cup with a score of 4 - 2, also making Australia the first nation to qualify through a penalty shoot-out.
Fittingly, in the post-game celebrations, the Socceroos all donned t-shirts with “NEVER SAY NEVER" across the front. The occasion couldn’t have been more perfect for those words. Against the odds, they had defeated Uruguay, whose playmaker claimed at the time that it was La Celeste’s divine right to be in the finals. At last, the Socceroos had made it to their second ever World Cup tournament. They were on their way to Germany.
"Your tears of pain will one day be tears of joy".
2006 World Cup, Germany:
Group F of the group stages comprised of Australia, Croatia, Japan, and defending champions Brazil. In the opening match, Australia v Japan, the underdogs Australia would emerge victorious after a surprise 3 - 1 win. By the 80th minute, Japan was leading 0 - 1... by the final whistle just 13 minutes later, the Socceroos had scored 3 goals in the 84th, 89th, and 92nd - the first World Cup team to score three goals in 8 minutes in the dying minutes of the game. It would be fondly remembered as one of our proudest wins.
The Socceroos would then lose 2 - 0 to Brazil, but a 2 - 2 draw with Croatia (in a very chaotic and
But having made the Round of 16 in their first World Cup in 32 years, the Socceroos had enchanted our nation and did us all proud. When the team came home, they came home as heroes.
From OFC to AFC: Australia Moving On
Let’s Back-Track Some 40-Plus Years
Australia’s first application to join the AFC was in 1964, which was denied. In 1966, the soccer federations of Australia, New Zealand and Fiji
Fast-Forward To 2005
There were rumours that FIFA and the AFC had secretly discussed Australia’s possible move from the OFC. This was confirmed in late March 2005, when the AFC finally invited Australia into the confederation, and in April, the OFC gave its permission for Australia to leave. In late June, FIFA approved the decisions (all of which were unanimous), and in January 2006, it was official: Australia had become a member of the AFC, and was invited to join one of the AFC’s four sub-groups, the ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations) Football Federation.
(Due to Australia qualifying for the 2006 World Cup as a member of the OFC, the Socceroos still played in the World Cup as an Oceanian nation, though they were entered into the qualifications for the 2007 AFC Asian Cup.)
2007 AFC Asian Cup
In 2006, under the direction of Australian coach Graham Arnold, the Socceroos, drawn with Bahrain, Kuwait, and Lebanon, came out top of their qualifying group for their first ever AFC Asian Cup tournament. They would advance from the group rounds second-best after Iraq, and meet their rivals Japan in the quarter-finals but lose 3 - 4 in a penalty shootout. Iraq would go on to win the Asian Cup tournament with Saudi Arabia taking second place and Japan fourth, beaten by South Korea who would take third.
Road to 2010: The Socceroos’ Rollercoaster Ride
Road to 2010: World Cup Qualification
After the slightly less-than-satisfying Asian Cup campaign, it was announced that the Dutchman Pim Verbeek would take over the role of Socceroos coach.
Under Verbeek’s guidance, the Socceroos enjoyed a successful 2010 World Cup (AFC) qualifying campaign. They were given a bye until the third round (due to the success of their 2006 World Cup campaign), came out top of their third-round qualifying group (comprising of Australia, Qatar, Iraq and China, and labelled the Group of Death), topped their fourth-round qualifying group (comprising of Australia, Japan, Qatar, Bahrain, and Uzbekistan) without losing a match, managed to hold a 7-game clean-sheet, broken only by our rivals Japan with one goal, and reached their highest ever FIFA ranking, placing 14th in the world.
And then, the world stage.
2010 World Cup, South Africa
Australia was drawn into Group D alongside Germany, Ghana, and Serbia, labelled as the tournament’s second Group of Death (we don’t seem to have great luck with tournament groups, do we?). They would go down 4 - 0 with just 10 men against a near-flawless German side (which saw key player Tim Cahill sent off with a contentious red card), draw 1 - 1 against Ghana (which saw other key player Harry Kewell off with a contentious red card), and then win 2 - 1 against Serbia (no red card?! A miracle!), but fail to qualify for the Round of 16 due to goal differences. Germany and Ghana would go on to reach 3rd place and the quarter-finals respectively.
Our captain, Lucas Neill, in tears after the painfully bittersweet win against Serbia. Given how much he had to carry throughout the Socceroos’ campaign, the result no doubt hurt him the most:
Did you hear that? That was the sound of my heart breaking. Again.
Excuse me, I... have something in my eye.
Thus, it was the end of the Socceroos’ 2010 World Cup campaign. There was success and there was celebration, there was hope, and then heartbreak, and then redemption. To some, it was the end of our “golden generation". To others, it was merely the start of another page of Australian soccer’s story.
2011 AFC Asian Cup: The Next Journey
2011 Asian Cup Qualification
2009 saw Australia qualify for the 2011 Asian Cup, coming first out of their group with Kuwait coming in second, ahead of Oman and Indonesia. Sort-of fun fact: both Australia and Kuwait had scored the least amount of goals of the qualifying tournament, with 6 goals each.
The other teams to qualify were: Japan and Bahrain (Group A), UAE and Uzbekistan (Group C), Syria and China (Group D), Iran and Jordan (Group E), India (2008 AFC Challenge Cup winner), North Korea (2010 AFC Challenge Cup winner), Iraq, Saudi Arabia and South Korea (1st, 2nd and 3rd place respectively from the 2007 Asian Cup), and the host nation, Qatar.
And so, the Socceroos’ next challenge will be the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, having been drawn into Group C to play South Korea (one of the strongest (if not the strongest) and most consistent AFC nations), India (a rival in cricket, so why not soccer too?), and Bahrain (often the almost-but-not-quite-there team, who could break through yet).
Their first game is against India on January 10th, then South Korea on January 14th, and finally, Bahrain on January 18th. With new coach Holger Osieck at the helm, it looks to be an exciting Asian Cup for the Socceroos!
But hold up!
Step Aside, Boys! The Girls Will Show You How It’s Done!
2010, The Matildas: The Awesome HBICs AKA Our Australian Women’s Team
The Matildas are our Australian Women’s national team, with the nickname taken from the title of Australia’s most famous folk song, Waltzing Matilda. These kickass women (I’m proud and biased okay?!) are captained by
2010 AFC Women's Asian Cup
The Women's Asian Cup, played in May 2010, was held in Chengdu, China. The eight qualified nations were Australia, North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Thailand. The Matildas advanced from their group (with two wins and a loss) in second-place with China taking first, ahead of South Korea and Vietnam. In the knockout stages, the Matildas defeated Japan 0 - 1, and North Korea defeated China 0 - 1.
On May 30th, 2010, the Matildas played North Korea in the finals of the Asian Cup at the Chengdu Sports Centre in awful conditions. Apart from the pitch of the Chengdu Sports Centre leaving much to be desired (read: LOOKING LIKE CRAP), it looked horrendously humid, drizzled for most of the match, and then began bucketing with rain during the second half.
Spectators were few, which was a shame because very lovely soccer was played, with few bad fouls, and something like only one yellow card handed out. So equal were the teams (the North Korean women’s team kicks serious ass, too), that they finished extra time with 1 - 1, and it took a penalty shootout to determine the winner. Even then, it was one hell of a close call. A North Korean player missed her penalty kick, and Australia won 4-5 on penalties, crowning them the Women's Asian Cup Champions of 2010, and being the first Australian soccer team to win a major competition.
Congratulations, girls!! ♥
Fun fact: Our youngest Matilda is midfielder Samantha Kerr, who was only 16 at the time of the tournament. She was the only one who scored against North Korea in the final, until the penalty shootout.
Peace Queen’s Cup
The Peace Queen’s Cup is a small invitational tournament held biennially by the Sunmoon Peace Football Foundation (South Korea). This event corresponds with the men’s event, the Peace Cup, but the Peace Cup is held for men’s clubs’ participation, and the Peace Queen’s Cup is held for national women’s teams’ participation. The most recent Peace Cup tournament was in 2009, with Aston Villa crowed the winners after defeating Juventus 4 - 3 on penalties in the final. The 2010 Peace Queen’s Cup final was a match between South Korea and Australia, with South Korea beating the Matildas 2 - 1.
2011 Women’s World Cup
The 2010 Women’s Asian Cup served as the qualification for the 2011 Women’s World Cup, meaning that Australia (winners), North Korea (runners-up) and Japan (third-place) had all qualified. North Korea have been drawn into Group C with USA, Colombia and Sweden, and Japan into Group B with New Zealand, Mexico, and England. The Matildas have been drawn into Group D, along with Brazil, Norway, and Equatorial Guinea. Their first match will be against Brazil on the 29th of June.
GOOD LUCK, MATILDAS!! ♥
And now, back to the Socceroos.
The Coaches: The Head Honchos Of The Socceroos, 2005 - Present
Guus Hiddink (Netherlands) 2005 - 2006
A highly-praised manager worldwide, Dutchman Guus Hiddink became the Socceroos’ coach in 2005 whilst coaching PSV Eindhoven at the same time, and left both club and national team managerial duties in 2006 after the World Cup. Though his time in Australia was short, Hiddink is accredited with transforming the Socceroos into a much more formidable team, in particular improving the Australian defense.
During the Socceroos’ World Cup opening match against Japan, Hiddink substituted Tim Cahill and John Aloisi into the game in the second half, which saw Cahill score twice (the first of which was also Australia’s first World Cup goal) and Aloisi once, to completely turn the game around in a memorable group stage match. After a 2 - 0 loss to Brazil, Hiddink used second-string Zeljko Kalac as the Socceroos’ goalkeeper for their match against Croatia rather than regular Mark Schwarzer. Though Kalac’s performance was thought inadequate, Australia did manage to equalise (to Kalac’s immense relief) and advance to the Round of 16. After Australia was knocked out of the World Cup by Italy, Hiddink’s regime was officially over.
By guiding the Socceroos through to World Cup qualification, seeing satisfying results from friendlies in the lead-up to the tournament, and making the Round of 16, Hiddink had become very popular with the Australian soccer fans; apart from having numerous chants dedicated to him, some joked about voting Hiddink in as Prime Minister, and the Sydney Morning Herald jokingly put together a campaign to implement a national ‘Guus tax’, to try to keep Hiddink as Socceroos coach.
Hiddink, having made such a positive impact on Australian soccer, parted with the Socceroos on excellent terms, and headed to his next challenge of coaching the Russian national team. When Hiddink left the Socceroos, he left behind a legacy.
(In Guus We Trust!)
Graham Arnold (Australia) 2006 - 2007
Formerly a Socceroos striker, Graham Arnold has served as caretaker, assistant coach (to Guus Hiddink and Pim Verbeek), and even head coach to the Socceroos. From 2006 to 2007, Arnold directed the team to the 2007 Asian Cup tournament.
Arnold is, to be honest, not exactly the most popular of coaches, not helped by the less-than-desirable results he had pulled in. Many fans and critics felt that he was not a suitable choice, and in a press conference in July 2007 after the Socceroos lost to Iraq in the Asian Cup group stages, Arnold expressed his disappointment that some players on the team did not want him as coach.
Since then, from 2007 to 2008, Arnold lead the U-23 Australian team (the “Olyroos") and qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but failed to progress from the group stages, having been drawn against Argentina, Ivory Coast, and Serbia (see what I mean by not having great luck with tournament groups?!) and only managing to gain one point from a draw with Serbia. From 2010 onwards, Arnold has moved on to club duties, managing the Australian A-League club, Central Coast Mariners FC, which is enjoying solid and consistent form. Be as it may that he is doing better as a club coach than a national team coach, there is still little doubt that Graham Arnold has done (and is still doing) much for Australian soccer.
(I could wish him luck with the Central Coast Mariners, but I root for another A-League team, so I, er... won’t. ;) )
Pim Verbeek (Netherlands) 2007 - 2010
In 2007, Peter Tim Verbeek (better known as Pim Verbeek), took on the position of Socceroos coach. Verbeek relied heavily on the 4-2-3-1 formation and preferred defensive tactics over attack. People labelled the approach "boring", but Verbeek firmly stood by his decisions: as long as the Socceroos got the results they wanted, he didn’t care much about being “boring". For a much funnier take on this, here is a humourous column from The Age newspaper, “The Socceroos go Brazilian".
Verbeek was outspoken about Australia’s home-grown A-League (back then, only about 3 years young). In his eyes, it had potential but was still lacking, and home-trained players would not hold out well in the World Cup. Of the 2010 squad, a majority of the players came from clubs overseas, with only a few A-Leaguers given chances and selected, which didn’t sit too well with some critics. But Verbeek, ever thick-skinned, continued to coach as he saw fit, and the Socceroos entered their third World Cup tournament in history after completing a very solid qualifying campaign.
And then, the 2010 World Cup. It all kind of went crashing down from there. Verbeek used unfamiliar tactics in Australia’s first match against Germany, placing key attacking midfielder (and prominent goal-scorer) Tim Cahill in the position of lone striker, rather than use regular forwards. It was a big gamble... and one that did not pay off. The Socceroos fell apart and were thrashed 4 - 0. In the end, Australia was unable to advance due to goal differences.
After the 4 - 0 demolition, the media and critics were up in arms all over it. After good games against Ghana and Serbia, the Socceroos had redeemed themselves, but the media were slower to forgive Verbeek, though he was too thick-skinned to let it weigh him down. At the end of the World Cup, he took his leave quietly, all but refusing to discuss the World Cup and severing his ties with Australia. It was the closing of one book in his life and the opening of another. He had, according to one of the few interviews he gave, enjoyed his time in Australia, but had a new challenge to look forward to: helping to develop youth talent for the Moroccan national team.
(This Socceroos fan thanks you, Pim Verbeek, for all you have done for us, and wishes you the best for the future.)
Holger Osieck (Germany) 2010 - present
In a bit of a surprise announcement, Holger Osieck took up the role of Socceroos head honcho not long after the 2010 World Cup. His role, aside from overseeing the Socceroos for the next 4 years, would also involve the development of youth soccer talent in Australia.
Currently, Osieck is doing what his predecessor, Verbeek, didn’t do much of - giving more chances for A-Leaguers to be a part of the Socceroos squad. Osieck also employs a much more attacking approach than Verbeek was willing to, even suggesting that, if trained right, Tim Cahill could be used as a quality striker instead of a midfielder. As one of the major criticisms of the Socceroos during Pim Verbeek’s defense-orientated regime was lack of goal-scoring, Osieck’s approach has been warmly welcomed by Australia soccer enthusiasts.
So far, the adaptable Socceroos have taken to his new tactics well. International friendlies against Switzerland (away, draw 0 - 0), Poland (away, win 2 - 1) and Paraguay (home, win 1 - 0) saw a satisfying start to Osieck’s coaching regime (well, with the exception of a 3 - 0 (away) thumping at the hands of Egypt, but let’s not dwell on that, okay?), and soon, "HOLGER’S HEROES" signs could be seen in the crowd. Already, the Australian soccer fans had warmed to him. Four years is a long time, but so far, so good.
The Squad: The 2011 Asian Cup Socceroos
Jersey number. Name (position/s, club, age)
1. Mark Schwarzer (goalkeeper, Fulham, 38)
Australia’s no.1 keeper, in all sense of the term, who has been a Socceroo the longest of all the current squad members - 16 years. He is a reliable keeper and has great leadership and we all love him, and he doesn’t look like he’s slowing down any time soon even though he’s the oldest member of the Socceroos squad by a good 3 years, and Arsène Wenger wanted him at Arsenal and Schwarzer wanted to go to Arsenal, but Fulham’s head honcho shot them both down, along with my daydream of seeing Schwarzer and Cesc Fabregas playing together as teammates. *siiiiigh*
Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer: much-loved guardian of Australia’s goal.
2. The Dashingly Handsome Lucas Neill ([Captain], centre back / right back, Galatasaray, 32)
Ahhh Lucas Neill. O Captain, my Captain. You either love him or you don’t. Many Socceroos fans love him, but back when he played in the EPL, he did occasionally piss people off.
Off the pitch: a bit of a gentleman, fairly polite and respectful of opponents. On the pitch: fierce as f#ck. He is a versatile but aggressive defender and his hotheadedness has gotten himself into trouble on more than one occasion, although he has mellowed out a bit over the years. He is a well-known name and face in Australian soccer, not just for his captaincy (and handsomeness!), but also for his never-say-die attitude. Truly a man of Aussie spirit.
And yes, he has had that soul-patch for, like, forever. I once photoshopped it off out of curiosity. I almost couldn’t recognise him.
3. David Carney (left wingback / left winger, Blackpool, 27)
Consistent performer and regular face on the Socceroos squad, focused, hard-working and patient, a defender who has both scored and bailed us out of trouble on more than one occasion. His long-range shots are things of beauty, as is his ability to surprise the opponents. There’s not a tonne more I need to say about Carney, except ‘thank goodness he’s with us’.
"I hope I do a lot more damage in the future," said Carney in an interview after scoring in a victorious 1 - 0 win in a friendly. "I've got a lot more to give for the Socceroos."
There is no doubt about that at all, Carney. :’)
4. Tim Cahill (attacking midfielder, Everton, 31)
Tim Cahill. How do I begin to explain Tim Cahill? Tim Cahill is flawless. I hear his tattoos are insured for-
One of Australia's most well-loved sport icons, Cahill has been adopted by nearly every Australian soccer fan as their son/brother/father/husband/nephew/cousin.
BONUS: Here is a clip of two of Cahill's kids in England: the smaller one (wearing a “DADDY 17" shirt!) tumbles off one of the stadium seats and bumps his head. The adorableness of this will melt the hearts of even the most devout Kopites (maybe). All together now, ladies and gents: awwwwww!
5. Jason Culina (midfielder / right back, Gold Coast United, 30)
Jason Culina has played for Australia since his youth, and is another regular starter. He spent almost a decade playing for clubs overseas before returning to the A-League, and is currently one of a handful of A-League players in the squad, and probably the one who endorses the league the most. Culina loves Australian soccer with all his heart and rallies behind his team tirelessly. Recent financial difficulties and falling attendance numbers with Gold Coast United FC, of which Culina is captain, has not dampened his spirit in the least. Armed with a hard-working and positive attitude, and typical Aussie humour, Culina continues to give his all to the Socceroos and to the A-League.
6. Sasa Ognenovski (centre back, Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma, 31)
People point him out as an aggressive defender and a bit of a bully on the field. With his 195cm (6’5") height, solid build, and slightly intimidating presence, it’s not exactly hard to see why. But this same man is a humble leader, dedicated to his club, and would do anything to represent Australia.
Let’s have a look at Sasa... Captain of K-League team Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma, led the team to victory in the 2010 AFC Champions League tournament, Man of the Match for the final, a 3 - 1 win against Iranian club Zob Ahan Isfahan FC, scored the opening goal of said final, tournament’s MVP, 2010 AFC’s Player of the Year, Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma as AFC’s team of the year. Phew!
With those kinds of achievements, he couldn’t be ignored any more. Sasa had often voiced his desire to play for Australia, and he was finally given his long-awaited and highly anticipated call-up when he debuted in the starting XI in a friendly against Egypt in November, and though the Socceroos were given a 3 - 0 beatdown (*CRY*), it was hard to wipe grin from Sasa’s face. Finally, he had earned himself his place in international duty. Welcome aboard, Sasa!
7. Brett Emerton (midfielder, Blackburn Rovers, 31)
Fierce, fast, and stocking plenty of stamina, Emerton is one of our most-capped players (4th-most in the history of the Socceroos) and has also represented Australia at youth level. His unwavering loyalty to both club and country has made him a crowd favourite, and his humbleness and down-to-earth-ness even more so. Socceroo veteran he may be, but as far as Emerton is concerned, he’ll always be just another guy from Sydney.
In fact, have a read of this Australian FourFourTwo article about Brett Emerton: The Quiet Australian (2007). It tells of a 20-year-old Emerton turning down Sir Alex Ferguson’s personal offer to trial for Manchester United, so that he can fulfil his promise of staying in Australia... and he also rescues a stray dog. Ladies and gentlemen, Brett Emerton.
8. Luke Wilkshire (midfielder / right back, Dynamo Moscow, 29)
He is not the most spectacular, glamourous, outstanding nor noticeable of our Socceroos. But? Without him, our team might not be where we are now. Luke Wilkshire is one of our most consistent players, yet arguably one of our most unsung heroes; a quiet achiever who just wants to enjoy the game, and not really one who cares much for the spotlight. He just gets the ball to the front and does his job with excellent technical skill. A number of our goals are scored because he has helped set them up, if he isn’t scoring them himself. In 2006, Guus Hiddink saw potential in the lad that not many others could see at the time... and thank god Hiddink did.
Wilkshire apparently also has an obsession with Rexona deodorant and would happily advertise for them one day. Ah, Wilkshire; never change, son. :')
9. Scott McDonald (striker, Middlesborough, 27)
After a surprise (/understatement) omission from the World Cup squad, Scott McDonald is back in business with the Socceroos. In his youth, he was passed around by clubs that couldn’t make up their minds, before being given his chances with Motherwell FC (2004), and then Celtic FC (2007), scoring several goals for both clubs and gaining attention as one of Europe’s leading goalscorers. Unfortunately, the same can’t (yet) be said for his performances with the Socceroos; with 20 caps, he is still yet to score. However, Holger Osieck has placed his faith in the striker for the Asian Cup (admittedly, the absence of other strikers due to injury were also factors), and McDonald has every intention of repaying him. We are waiting for him to score, and the day he does so will indeed be a day of celebration.
10. Harry Kewell (winger / attacking midfielder / second striker, Galatasaray, 32)
Another of Australian sport’s most well-loved sons, Harry Kewell has given much to the Australian soccer scene, both on and off the pitch, over many years. Constantly plagued by injuries, yet still loved for his well-worded honesty, steadfast loyalty, and fiery passion for soccer, he has sometimes been in verbal fights with members of the media who like to use him as their verbal punching bag and think him to be past his use-by date. But Kewell, not letting his age stop him, is adamant that he still has much to give to Australian soccer, and fans continue to stand by him. He is definitely one to keep running for as long as his body will allow, and has long claimed his place in the hearts of Australian fans.
And a special mention to Galatasaray fans, who love him to bits. Galatasaray fans! Hello! Thank you for taking care of our boys! ♥
BONUS: Here is a random photo of Harry Kewell and the dashingly handsome Lucas Neill, shirtless after a game. I’m not sure of the circumstances, but hellooooo there!
11. Nathan Burns (winger / second striker, AEK Athens, 22)
A bit of a surprise selection, and a bit of a baby to the Socceroos squad (but it’s true, Burns!), he has only made 4 appearances for the senior squad since 2007. To make it to Qatar 2011, Burns needed to convince the head honcho that he was ready to take on whatever the Socceroos threw at him, and by improving his game and becoming a regular starter at AEK Athens, Burns earned himself a place in the squad. Young but mentally tough and positive, Burns has done well at club-level and is looking forward to proving himself at the Asian Cup - to prove to the fans that he can do a good job, and to prove to Holger Osieck that he had made the right choice in selecting him.
12. Nathan Coe (goalkeeper, SønderjyskE, 26)
It’s tricky, being a Socceroos goalie when first-choice Mark Schwarzer is in the squad; it usually amounts to a lot of benchwarming, even for friendlies. Okay, that’s enough pessimism from me.
Nathan Coe, slightly under the radar, will be making an infrequent appearance for the Socceroos, with his last call-up being for the friendly against Egypt (*sob*) last November, and before then, a match against Nigeria in 2007. He has struggled to find regular playing time as first-choice goalie for his previous clubs (although he did well in his time with FC Copenhagen), and will be looking to SønderjyskE for a good spell. Admittedly, his chances of playing time with the Socceroos are not fantastic, but just try telling that to him. Maybe all he needs is a bit of confidence. Good luck, Coe!
13. Jade North (centre back / right back, Wellington Phoenix, 28)
A semi-regular who recently came back to the A-League after brief stints in South Korea and Norway, unable to adapt and often stuck as a benchwarmer. North is quite a solid and consistent defender who has displayed leadership qualities, having captained former club Newcastle Jets for their 2007/2008 season, and the Socceroos for a friendly against Singapore in 2008 - the first Aboriginal to do so, and a title he holds with pride. North is of Aboriginal heritage and has the name of his tribe, Biripi, tattooed across his left forearm, and spends much of his time working with kids to promote soccer and well-being, in particular in Australia’s Northern Territory where there are several Aboriginal communities. Both on the field and off it, he is considered a role model for indigenous children - and may he continue to be a role model as he fights for the green and gold.
14. Brett Holman (attacking midfielder / winger, AZ Alkmaar, 26)
Initially, Brett Holman was one of the least popular of the Socceroos. Critics thought him a waste on the 23-man squad. So-called fans even started anti-Holman groups on Facebook. To them, Holman was a joke, a hopeless striker who couldn’t score; a burden on the team.
But the hard-working and thick-skinned Holman kept his head on his shoulders and his feet on the ground and let his soccer play do the talking, and he has since made many of the haters sit the hell down by proving himself to be an increasingly reliable striker, scoring goals with the ball, and creating opportunities without it. A quietly valuable asset on the pitch, Holman has sworn not to let negative criticism get to him, and his positivity has paid off as he continues to put numbers on the scoreboard for the Socceroos. Thank you, Holman, and good luck!
15. Mile Jedinak (defensive midfielder, Gençlerbirliği SK, 26)
Mile Jedinak is an interesting lad. At the time of the 2006 World Cup, he wasn’t even playing soccer professionally - on and off in his state’s small-scale premier league, playing in his spare time, while studying and helping out at his uncle’s building company.
Four years later, Jedinak became a member of the 2010 World Cup squad, and now, the 2011 Asian Cup squad, whilst playing in the Turkish Süper Lig. I will give you a moment to scratch your head and/or raise your eyebrow/s. While he is not super-outstanding-omg, there’s no shooting down his rise In just four years to become a semi-regular in the squad. Hidden talent that just needed to be nurtured? The result of lots of hard work? Maybe a mix of both.
16. Carl Valeri (defensive midfielder, Sassuolo, 26)
The humble, hard-working, and all-around nice guy Carl Valeri is seen as the successor to ageing prominent Australian defensive midfielder Vincenzo “Vince" Grella, and is often nicknamed “Mini Vinnie" due to the likeliness between the two. Spending almost his entire career in Italy, Valeri’s dream is to play in the Serie A, narrowly missed when Sassuolo failed to be promoted from the Serie B (Valeri had flown off to South Africa for the World Cup at that time). Playing well with the Socceroos to gain a near-regular spot on the squad has helped his confidence. In his own words, “I realised I can play at that level, I can be there. Not only can I be there - I can hold my own." (Football+, Davidde Corran) And he’ll continue to hold his own and make us proud.
17. Matt McKay (midfielder, Brisbane Roar, 27)
Another from our contingent of A-League players, Matt McKay has only made 6 national team caps, but he is not about to let other overseas-based Socceroos steamroll them, and is adamant that he is not in the squad just to make up the numbers. He is the fierce captain of Brisbane Roar FC, and his excellent form has seen the club enjoy their spot at the top of the ladder, ahead of the second-placed by a good 8 points, which has no doubt impressed Holger Osieck, and has earned McKay his place in the Socceroos squad again. As you can probably tell, he is another stubborn, spirited, spunky lad who looks to be making his mark with the Socceroos very soon.
18. Brad Jones (goalkeeper, Liverpool, 28)
Although he was listed in the 23-man squad as a goalkeeper for Australia in the 2010 World Cup, Jones got the scare of his life after receiving news that his young son had been diagnosed with leukemia, and he withdrew from the tournament to be with his family. Since then, Jones has become an active supporter of donations of blood, organs, bone marrow and the like, in particular the Anthony Nolan charity.
After the World Cup tournament, Jones joined Liverpool from Middlesborough, and has thus far made a fairly decent start as second-string goalkeeper, though it could be said that his performances are a bit inconsistent. All he probably needs is a bit more experience, and no doubt he will be a fine goalie.
And by the way, his twitter is http://www.twitter.com/Brad_Jones1 \o/
19. Thomas Oar (left winger, Utrecht, 19)
The baby of the squad, “Tommy" Oar is a last-minute replacement for the injured Richard Garcia, originally left out due to lack of experience and the need to improve his play. After a very good debut with the Socceroos earlier this year during an Asian Cup qualifier match with Indonesia, much of the media drew comparisons to Socceroos star Harry Kewell, with some labelling Oar as Kewell’s successor. Admittedly, Oar is not the first, and probably won’t be the last young player to receive such a comparison, but, being quite mature at such a young age, he understands that he must be careful of hype and that he still has a lot to learn. Oar has the potential to give much to the Socceroos, and no doubt his years to come will be exciting ones.
20. Matthew Špiranović (centre back / midfielder, Urawa Red Diamonds, 22)
Initially, the Croatian national team were hell-bent on taking him on board, but hurrah! Spiranovic chose to be with the Socceroos! \o/ Another skilful youngster who looks set to occupy the Socceroos’ central defense in place of the older members, Špiranović is a little shyer than most of the others, but as he gains regular playing time with his club and increasing playing time with the Socceroos, his confidence is building. Older members like Lucas Neill and retired central defender Craig Moore, whom Špiranović is expected to succeed, speak highly of his potential and, as with the other younger members, Špiranović with a little more experience will surely become a key figure in the Socceroos’ defense.
21. Jonathan McKain (centre back / defensive midfielder, Al Nassr, 28)
Jon McKain who? An under-the-radar defender who is back with the Socceroos after a few years of not making the squad, he has played very solidly at club level (plying his trade in the Romanian league for 5 years, before coming to the A-League for an excellent season with Wellington Phoenix, and then moving to the Saudi Professional League) which has caught the attention of Osieck. There is not much information about him, but he seems like a pretty laid-back guy, and just wants to enjoy the game. A good Asian Cup run should do the trick.
22. Neil Kilkenny (midfielder, Leeds United, 25)
Another mystery to the Socceroos fans, Kilkenny will make an appearance for the squad - a rare appearance despite doing very well at club-level. He is renowned for his passes and great energy in games, and he has occasionally (and he admits it) clashed with managers in the past due to his honesty, and he puts it down to being frustrated when he is unable to play. We certainly have no shortage in stubborn, spunky and spirited lads, and with an ageing midfield, a player of Kilkenny’s calibre (try saying “Kilkenny’s calibre" five times quickly. Go on.) might just be what we need.
23. Robbie Kruse (winger / attacking midfielder / striker, Melbourne Victory, 22)
Do I have to talk about this guy? Do I have to? He plays for my club’s biggest rival team in the A-League. Can I just skip him? I can’t? I should make this 101 as unbiased as possible? I suppose you’re right. *sigh*
Um... Robbie Kruse... is young and... not a bad striker... I guess... and....... yeah...
Kruse has represented Australia at youth level, and this Asian Cup will be his first international tournament at senior level. Although young, he has already proven himself to be a reliable striker at club level, having played an excellent first season with Melbourne Victory FC (2009-2010). Victory players are not exactly popular outside of their own club (I swear that’s not just my bias showing), but the Victory players and supporters love him. When it was announced that he had made the Asian Cup squad, Australian sports media exploded with excitement, which probably says a lot. Um... may he... have much... success with the Socceroos (and only the Socceroos), and... continue to, um, prosper. OKAY, DONE!
Australia for 2015 AFC Asian Cup
Okay I think you’re all pretty tired of this, so I’ll make it short and sweet:
Australia was the sole bidder for the 2015 Asian Cup, and the host for it was officially announced on the 6th of January (today!), 2011... us! HURRAH AUSTRALIA! \o/ We’ll take any party that comes our way! :D
So, here is the Guide to Aussie Asian Cup 2015, version San:
1. Celebrate New Year, 2015
2. Come to Australia
3. Watch many soccer games
4. Have epic BBQs
5. Hug a koala. Double-check you have life insurance.
6. Meet a spunky Aussie guy / lovely Aussie girl
7. Become Australia citizen
8. Happy life! \o/
SEE YOU IN...
And so concludes this extremely long-winded Socceroos 101. How will we fare in the 2011 Asian Cup, and eventually, the qualifiers for the 2014 Brazil World Cup? Only time will tell.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Australian national team, our beloved Socceroos.
Dancing John Travolta and Tim Cahill thanks you for your time.
(and so does Milly! :D)
Sources: Wikipedia, Google, Australian FourFourTwo, Zimbio, various Australian news sources, cute kangaroo photo is from here
Disclaimer: I wasn’t kidding when I said tl;dr ok!!!
(If I have left out anything you feel is important, please don’t hesitate to let me know, and I’ll try to incorporate it into the 101!)