Ten days ago, on a cold winter’s night in Sydney, rain bucketed down as an entire nation sat on the edge of their seats. With the score deadlocked at 0-0 and with less than 15 minutes left on the clock, the Australian national team faced a tough task. Unable to break through a resilient Iraqi defense, the Socceroos needed a result in order to qualify for Brazil 2014.
Inspiration was needed, a moment of magic to lift the Socceroos. Head coach Holger Osieck signaled to the fourth official that a substitution would be made. A collective sense of disbelief swept through Stadium Australia and indeed the nation as a red number 4 was hoisted up by the official – the very same number on the back of talisman Tim Cahill’s jersey.
With a bemused look, Cahill reluctantly took his place on the bench to be replaced by 30-year-old Japan-based striker Joshua Kennedy. A questionable decision became all the more profound when the fact that Kennedy’s last national team appearance came in November of 2011 was added to the equation.
Barely two minutes later, Osieck prepared to make another change. As Melbourne Victory striker Archie Thompson prepared to take his place on the field, all eyes were on the fourth official to see who would be sacrificed. Hearts sunk across Australia as a red number 10 was hoisted up as 24-year-old Socceroos golden boy and Bundesliga star Robbie Kruse would be the man to make way.
Unrelenting rain continued to pour from the heavens as Archie Thompson received the ball deep on the right flank. With barely 8 minutes left to play, the ball fould itself at the feet of Mark Bresciano, still on the right and on the edge of the box. He spotted an unmarked Kennedy. Bresciano coolly played a perfectly weighted cross to the beanpole striker who in turn rose high to head home amidst an eruption of pure euphoria from the stands.
That was the night Australia sealed its invite to the greatest party in the world. A 1-0 result against Iraq ensured the Socceroos would be appearing in their third straight FIFA World Cup whilst simultaneously signalling to the rest of the football world that Australia has arrived on the world footballing stage, and are not about to leave anytime soon.
Flashback to ten years ago and what do you see? A desolate soccer landscape, a domestic league in shambles and a struggling national team. Something had to give. A change was needed. Soccer Australia became Football Federation Australia and the first baby steps of a new footballing revolution began.