Let’s remember back to the 2006 World Cup. Why? Because an Italian soccer legend has finally come out and said Australia was robbed of a spot in the quarter-finals of the world’s biggest sporting stage.
Visiting Sydney as he inspected the AC Milan Soccer School, AC Milan legend Daniele Massaro was asked about the most infamous game in Australian soccer history.
He described the late penalty awarded to Italy as "very lucky" when defender Lucas Neill was deemed to have illegally brought down Fabio Grosso, resulting in an easy penalty for Francesco Totti to convert in front of goal.
Does Massaro’s comment make it all better? Of course not. He simply stated what was true, but it doesn’t quell the pain from what is still one of the all-time special moments in Australia sport history.
In case you may have forgotten, or if you just don’t remember, I implore each and every one of you to watch this video of John Aloisi’s final shot during the penalty shootout of the 2005 World Cup qualification game against Uruguay, the ensuing result, what it meant for Australian soccer, how it made us all feel and how it still makes a feel now, even though most of us weren’t or aren’t soccer fans.
That 2005-06 run was a truly special time in Australian sport. Super-coach Guus Hiddink had be hired only four months prior to the qualification game against Uruguay and made some contentious roster selections while instilling a controlled and disciplined style of play.
Australia had qualified for the World Cup just a single time in the 40 years prior so Hiddink ran out a team of big-name veterans: an in-his-prime Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka, Tim Cahill, Brett Emerton, Neill, Craig Moore, Scott Chipperfield and keeper Mark Schwarzer.
In their epic first game against Japan, the Socceroos scored three goals (Cahill 84' and 89’, and Aloisi 92+') in the final eight minutes to surpass as 1-0 deficit and Kewll’s 2-2, 79th minute tying goal against Croatia pushed the Aussies out of the first-round of the tournament for the first time in history.
Australia was never given a fair chance to beat Italy, but they did outplay them for the entirety of that match. Sport’s just like that sometimes. Although the Socceroos haven’t matched their 2006 run their efforts will be remembered for generations to come.