As Peter Allen's Aussie party track "I go to Rio" reverberated around ANZ Stadium, Caltex Socceroos fans celebrated safe in the knowledge the Green and Gold were going to Brazil for World Cup 2014. What a night last time Australia faced Iraq in 2013.
Back in June of that year, in front of more than 80,000 rain-soaked fans in Sydney, the Caltex Socceroos battled to a 1-0 win over a plucky Iraqi outfit, the result sending Australia through to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Tall striker Josh Kennedy – playing his first match in the Green and Gold in 19 months – was the hero as his towering header seven minutes from time proved the difference.
It had been a tense and nervy atmosphere at ANZ Stadium that turned to utter euphoria as Holger Osieck’s side got the result which sent them to Brazil.
Vladimir Petrovic's visitors came to Sydney intent to spoil the party, sitting deep and trying to frustrate the Socceroos from the outset. But they had quality too. This was not going to be a walk in the park.
Talisman Tim Cahill went close inside two minutes but for a spectacular save from Iraq skipper Noor Sabri, while defender Sasa Ognenovski also missed with his diving header from Mark Bresciano’s centre.
Robbie Kruse was proving the go-to man - as he did against Jordan days earlier in a 4-0 win in Melbourne - able to find space in the crowded Iraq half with his pace and dribbling skills but Sabri was proving hard to beat.
He denied Cahill again just before the break as the sides went to the sheds all square.
The second half followed a similar theme before Osieck made his move on the hour mark, bringing on young gun Tom Rogic, with the tempo immediately lifting.
Within a minute he was gliding past Iraqi defenders and won a corner, which was nodded down by Cahill for Kruse to lash into the net, only for referee Alireza Faghani to rule it out for a foul in the build-up.
It only added to the tension as the minutes ticked by before Osieck caused a shock by taking off Cahill and bringing on Kennedy.
But it proved a masterstoke as just five minutes later Kennedy leapt highest to meet Bresciano’s right-wing cross to beat Sabri with a thumping downward header.
Every player in the squad and coaching staff ran with unadulterated joy to celebrate with Kennedy in the corner as the Socceroos were on their way to Brazil.
What a night. And as the last chorus of "Rio" was sung, for the fans it was straight online to see what travel packages were available.
Brazil beckoned. Though by the time Australia arrived at the World Cup, it was a much different looking squad and coaching team.
Young Socceroos set for kick off in 2018 SBS Cup
A selection of Australia’s finest U18 footballers commence their 2018 SBS Cup campaign in Japan tomorrow evening. Ante Milicic’s side take on the host nation at Fujieda Stadium at 7.30pm kick off (AEST). AUSSIES ABROAD: Maclaren, Vukovic impress in Europe READ: Why Rene
Instant MLS impression a promising sign for Brad Smith
Brad Smith played just over four hours of football for Bournemouth last season. But it took 73 minutes for the Caltex Socceroos fullback to claim accord with new club Seattle Sounders after an impressive Major League Soccer debut yesterday. AUSSIES ABROAD: Maclaren, Vukovic
'It feels like I've never been away': Jamie Maclaren's relief after summer in the dark
From an initial FIFA World Cup™ omission to constant uncertainty over his future, it’s been a difficult summer for Jamie Maclaren. However, after making his first start of the season for Hibernian yesterday, the Caltex Socceroos striker feels right back at home in Scottish Pre