In Kuwait, they still reminisce about the night their national team stunned the Socceroos on Aussie soil in a 2009 Asian Cup qualifier. And with Kuwait facing the Socceroos in the Asian Cup opener on January 9, the Kuwaitis have another reason to feel confident of spoiling the party again.
Kuwait is coached by Jorvan Vieira. Remember him?
The likable 61-year-old Brazilian, of course, famously galvanised Iraq’s national team, helping them clinch an unforgettable 2007 Asian Cup.
After Younes Mahmoud powered home the winner in Jakarta against the Saudis, the 1-0 victory sparked wild scenes across the war-torn nation.
Vieira was, and is, a hero in those parts after he took over Iraq’s shambolic preparations barely a month before the tournament.
Along the way the Iraqis made the Socceroos look second-rate with an eye-catching 3-1 romp in the group stage in Thailand.
Nashat Akram in particular ran the Roos ragged forcing the Socceroos and their fans to make last minute plans to travel for a quarter-final in Vietnam.
So, Kuwait have a coach who knows what it feels to beat Australia at an Asian Cup.
And they have players who know that same feeling, albeit in qualification, after a shambolic Australia fell behind to Kuwaiti defender Mesaed Alenzi’s first half goal in Canberra five years ago.
Featuring a team made up Hyundai A-League names such as Tom Pondeljak, Fabian Barbiero and Matt Simon, Australia ended up bereft of ideas on a terrible night for our national team (even more bizarre was the shirt numbering with some Aussies' numbers greater than 100).
Resorting to long-ball football as they chased the game, the Australians looked second best against the well-drilled Kuwaitis (they’d also spent a week in New Zealand preparing under new coach Goran Tufegdzic).
“We did not deserve to win the game. Kuwait, defensively they did very well, were organised well, very compact and did not give us any space,” surmised then Socceroo coach Pim Verbeek after the game.
Historically, Australia has struggled against the tiny oil rich nation.
In the return leg in Kuwait City the Socceroos got off to a flyer scoring twice in the opening ten minutes before the home side powered back to level 2-2.
Go back a little further and results have always been close.
A 2-0 win at home in 2006 in another Asian Cup qualifier was hardly a walkover. A 1-0 in Dubai in a friendly six years earlier another tight win while in in 1993 Kuwait defeated Eddie Thomson’s Aussies in a friendly 3-1.
Kuwait’s golden era was the late 1970s; the springboard for their 1982 World Cup appearance (the only time they've qualified for the world's biggest event).
In 1977, the Kuwaitis defeated Australia 2-1 when it mattered in a World Cup qualifier in Sydney. It was a comeback of sorts after Jimmy Rooney had given the Roos a first half lead.
Back then it was another Brazilian who masterminded the Kuwaitis’ success with the legend Mario Zagallo in charge. Let’s hope that’s not an omen.
Can we win the Asian Cup? Of course it’s possible but facing the likes of Kuwait and their well-traveled coach suggest it won't be as easy as some would think.
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