Socceroo win inspires nation

“We’re not going to go there just to make up the numbers. I think we’ve got this inner confidence now. We’ve had 30 years of bad luck or whatever you want to call it, not being able to qualify,” he said

NanNing Sauna

83 thousand fans watched Australia qualify for the first time since 1974 at Stadium Australia. With a nation holding its breath, John Aloisi scored to seal a 4-2 penalty shootout win. Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer played a pivotal role in the shootout, blocking the ball with his mits twice which pumped up the parochial crowd.

In preparations for the qualifiers, the Australian team had only a handful a week long training camps and games under coach Guus Hiddink. Viduka hopes the team will gel with up to a months worth of preparation heading into the World Cup.

“I’ll tell you if we get four weeks together we’re going to be flying,” Viduka said.

Viduka admitted he was gutted after missing his penalty during the shootout that determined who qualified, but praised goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, the team, as well the 82,698-strong crowd for getting the Socceroos home.

Destiny for Aloisi

The hero of the penalty shootout, John Aloisi told his wife a few months earlier, he had a feeling he would score the winning goal to send Australia to the World Cup

Australia was ahead 1-0 after the end of regulation time but the qualifying match remained all square after Australia lost the first leg 1-0 in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo on the weekend.

“I saw the net move and I just went crazy,” Aloisi said of the moment he netted the winning penalty at Telstra Stadium to win its World Cup playoff against Uruguay.

“I ran to where my family was in the crowd and the boys came and joined me. It’s the best moment I’ve had in my football career.”

PM congratulates the Socceroos

Prime Minister John Howard has congratulated the Socceroos for their nail-biting win which has qualified them for soccer’s World Cup.

The prime minister watched the nerve-wracking final minutes of the match on the internet in his hotel after arriving at the South Korean port city of Busan, where he is attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) forum.

“My faith in penalty shoot-outs is restored. Congratulations to the team, to everybody associated with this tremendous resurgence of soccer in Australia,” he said

Celebrations in Australia’s sporting capital

Socceroos fans packed Federation Square in Melbourne to watch the qualifier on the big screen.

Police estimate eight thousand people watched the match at the inner city venue with 500 people staying on to celebrate Australia’s victory.

Flinders and Swanston Street were closed for an hour and a half after excited fans spilled onto the street.

Uruguay in mourning

While Australia was drunk with euphoria and jubilation half a world away, Uruguay’s defeat brought only dejection at home.

Uruguayans mutely shuffled to work and school today after they saw their team, a two time winner of the World Cup lose on penalties.

“Really bad, sad,” said Andres Izzi, 22, as he began his workday at his Montevideo newspaper stand.

Maria Teresa Nunez, a stay at home parent, said it was a shame her proud soccer mad country would sit out next year’s world cup.

“Though I’m not a big soccer fan, I almost got caught up by the euphoria, and naturally, as a Uruguayan, I wanted the team’s victory,” she said.

Then she added dejectedly, “But that’s the way things are.”

Uruguay last failed to qualify in 1994, although it also was on the sidelines for world cups in 1982 and 1978.

In Sydney, Uruguay coach Jorge Fossati best summed up the mood of the defeated.

“I feel great pain, I am at the lowest moment in my sporting life today. Uruguay blew countless scoring chances, and in the end couldn’t hold out a homeside cheered on by a sellout crowd,” he said.

A win against the odds

The bookies have put the Socceroos at 50-1 to win the World Cup next year.

Before they qualified, they were a distant 150-1 chance of winning the match.