June 14, 1974. One of the most important days on the timeline of Australian football. A day where our Socceroos first took on the world.
As the Socceroos entered the pitch, they walked out alongside East Germany – a team far more superior in terms of their football ability. We must remember at the time, the game of football was well and truly in its infancy in Australia.
The Socceroos had booked their place at football’s biggest tournament courtesy of a 1-0 playoff victory over South Korea, who we coincidentally beat in the Asian Cup final in 2015 – our first piece of major silverware.
Eleven men were handed the honour of starting our nation’s first World Cup game at the Volksparkstadion in Hamburg.
Manager Rale Rasic handed the captain’s armband to sweeper Peter ‘Big Willie’ Wilson, a former migrant from England who totalled 115 appearances for his country by the time his career came to a close in 1979.
In between the posts stood, Jack Reilly, a man who had not taken part in any of his country’s qualifiers as he had started preparing for life after football.
Wilson was joined in defence by Doug Utjesenovic, Manfred Schaefer and Colin Curran. Unfortunately the occasion would become a forgettable one for then 26-year-old Curran as he turned the ball into the back of his own net to hand the Germans the lead.
In midfield stood, Jimmy Rooney, Jimmy Mackay, Ray Richards and the great Johnny Warren. While we all are well aware of the work Warren completed both and off the field, Mackay deserves his own place in Australian football. After all, he scored the decisive goal against the South Koreans which led the Socceroos to their first World Cup.
Meanwhile Rasic, elected to select former Preston North End youth player Adrian Alston and Croatian-born Branko Buljevic to lead the line.
Unfortunately for the Socceroos, the game ended in a 2-0 defeat as the East Germans got their campaign off to the perfect start with Joachim Streich adding a second for his side. It proved to be a difficult tournament for the Australians, as they failed to score a single goal although they did pick up a point in a scoreless draw with Chile later in the tournament.
Despite battling away in Germany, the Socceroos performances upon their arrival on the world scene should never be forgotten as they are at the very beginning of our footballing story.
In modern times, it feels normal for the Socceroos to be preparing for a World Cup every four years, there was a time where it was as almost as rare as a blue moon.
We only need to cast our minds back to November 16, 2005 – the night we qualified for our second ever World Cup with a penalty shootout victory. For so long, we had been so close to returning to football’s biggest stage.
When John Aloisi’s penalty struck the back of the net, there was euphoria. Not only for those inside Stadium Australia, but those glued to their televisions around the country. It was a moment as football fans we will never forget.
Aloisi’s penalty is arguably the greatest moment in the game in this country, right up there alongside the victory against Japan in Kaiserslautern in 2006 and the 2015 Asian Cup victory on home soil.
As we prepare to support our boys on yet another rollercoaster ride in Russia, we must not forget the past.
As after all, the players who took to the field in 1974 were the first of a select few who were a Socceroos shirt at a World Cup.