The Australia men’s football team, with a world ranking of 42, secured qualification for a fifth consecutive FIFA World Cup on Tuesday, recording a historic 5-4 win over world No. 22 Peru, in a dramatic penalty shootout at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium here.
A strong team display, along with the heroics of the substitute goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne, helped seal Australia’s spot in the quadrennial showpiece, set to commence in November this year. Australia join reigning world champions France, Tunisia, and Denmark in Group D.
An emotional Australia head coach Graham Arnold termed the triumph as a milestone moment for football in the country and one that will sit alongside the achievements of the Socceroos’ World Cup and qualifying squads from 1974, 2006, 2010, 2014, and 2018.
“I am so proud of the players, staff, and everyone who has been involved in our campaign over the past four years,” Arnold was quoted as saying by footballaustralia.com.au.
“Throughout Covid, players and staff had to live away from their families for weeks and sometimes months on end to help our nation achieve today’s result and our goal of qualification for a fifth straight FIFA World Cup.
“In many of our camps, the players and staff were confined largely to their hotel rooms when they weren’t at the training pitch or match stadium. The dedication and sacrifice that has gone into this campaign from so many people has been immense, and as coach of Australia I am so thrilled that millions of people across our country will today be talking about the Socceroos — a team that represents modern-day Australia through its diversity and multiculturalism and unites the nation.”
The intercontinental playoff marked the culmination of a qualifying campaign that spanned more than 1,000 days for the Socceroos.
They were on track to qualify automatically as one of the top two teams in Group B of the third round of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) qualifying but a three-game winless streak left Arnold’s side third behind Saudi Arabia and Japan.
Australia beat the United Arab Emirates 2-1 earlier in June to set up the clash with Peru.
Goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne, who was substituted on for the shootout, was the hero, saving Peru’s spot-kick from Alex Valera to secure a 5-4 victory for the Socceroos.
“I’m no hero. I just played my role like everyone else did tonight,” Redmayne, who was sent on for captain Mathew Ryan after 120 scoreless minutes, said after the match.
“Not even the 11 on the pitch, it was much more than that, it is a team effort.”
The victory is a major boost for coach Arnold, who was under intense pressure and likely would have been ousted if the Socceroos failed to qualify.
(Inputs from IANS)