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Australian football needs a party like 2005

Mark Schwarzer of the Socceroos makes a save in the penalty shoot-out against Uruguay in 2005.
Mark Schwarzer of the Socceroos makes a save in the penalty shoot-out against Uruguay in 2005.

YOU might recall the morning after the night before. The sore heads from celebrating all night, the blinking disbelief, and John O'Neill's famous quote about rival codes jamming the corks back in their champagne bottles.

The morning of November 17, 2005, was the brightest of dawns for Australian football. The periodic despair at failing to qualify for the World Cup was blown away by a sense of limitless potential. That defeat of Uruguay in a playoff was the catalyst to speed the work of rebuilding Australian football.

 

Twelve years later, we stand at another crossroads. The stakes are different, but in their way as stark. By late evening, Australian football will know its direction.

We've kind of got used to the Socceroos being part of the World Cup, however they got there. Yet look around the world; Chile, Italy, Holland will be bystanders next year when the football kicks off in Russia. They'll learn afresh just how painful an experience it is to watch the world's biggest party in full swing and you didn't get an invite.

The truth is, we need a night to remember, and we need the focus and the benefits that qualifying for the World Cup brings. In a few days the battle for control of FFA between Steven Lowy and the A-League clubs will reach its climax, and we may have FIFA here running things before the end of the year.

The A-League itself feels stale, the ennui of 10 oh-so-familiar teams hard to shake off. There isn't much optimism going around. So this is why we need a shot of joy from the Socceroos.

 

For the players who will take the field tonight, this is career-defining stuff. Robbie Kruse and Trent Sainsbury missed out last time through injury. Tim Cahill is determined to go again once more. The rest have seen, close up, how treacherous qualification can be. If they fall at the final hurdle this time, who's to say that they will get another chance.

It's showtime, "90 minutes of football, to create more history for our country" in the words of Cahill. Whether they qualify tomorrow night or not won't define the future of the sport, but it will make the landscape of Australian football far more upbeat over the coming months if they do.


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