The Most Important Goal in Socceroos History

Half a century on from Australia's first ever qualification for the FIFA World Cup finals, we revisit - Football Stories: The Heroes of 1974, originally released in 2021.

The roundtable discussion includes legendary coach Rale Rasic and squad members Adrian AlstonJim Rooney and Doug Utjesenovic, Jim Fraser and Ray Baartz.

Socceroos Tickets banner v Bangladesh or Maldives

Get ready to take a trip down memory lane by meeting a handful of the characters responsible for where Australia football is today.

There is no shortage of memorable moments throughout this six-episode special.

“That will never be repeated. It was something that you dream about.”

It was a case of third time lucky as Rasic oversaw Australia’s first qualification for a FIFA World Cup finals tournament in 1974.

But as is often the case with Australian football, they did not achieve this the easy way.

Watch Episode 3: ‘The Most Important Goal in Australian History’ in the video player below!

The Socceroos comfortably accounted for New Zealand, Iraq and Indonesia in the first stage of qualifying before setting up a home and away tie with Iran.

After triumphing 3-0 on home soil the squad travelled to Tehran, where they were greeted with a baptism of fire including 119,000 spectators.

The return leg was not as smooth sailing, with the home side racing out to a 2-0 lead.

However to the dismay of the home support, the Australians desperately clung onto their slim advantage to prevail on aggregate.

Utjesenovic recalls how as the clock ran down, he was confronted by the image of a local cameraman on the sidelines with tears streaming down his face. The fullback reflects how it was the “toughest game” he ever played.

The final obstacle in Australia’s path was a strong South Korean outfit, who the Socceroos had faced on many occasions in recent history.

All of those fixtures were toughly fought battles, including Australia’s 3-2 victory in the 1967 Quoc Khanh Cup that earned the nation’s first ever international trophy.

With the stakes higher than ever, this exchange proved no different.

A 0-0 stalemate at home was followed by a 2-2 draw in Seoul, where Baartz scored the equaliser to restore what had been a two-goal deficit at half-time.

With no away goals rule in play, a third deciding fixture was hastily set up on neutral ground in Hong Kong.

“The South Korean team was on the same plane as us going to Hong Kong,” Baartz recounts.

“We were laughing and joking and they were all down and despondent because they thought they’d done enough to qualify leading 2-0.

“We were buoyant, everyone was cracking jokes and it was a psychological win for us.”

Australia’s fate decided by a solitary Jimmy Mackay goal, and what a goal it was.

“For all of us it was the best goal that’s ever been,” Rooney remarks. “It was top corner from 35 yards out!”

You can almost see the glimmer in everyone’s eye as they relive that storied moment.

“There is no way you can deny the goal of Mackay as the greatest in the history of Australian football,” Rasic enforces.

“I recall saying before my hair was black but after that match it was white!”


Subway Socceroos v Bangladesh
Thursday, 16 November 2023
AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 8.00pm AEDT
Tickets: via Ticketek
Broadcast: Network 10 and Paramount+

Palestine v Subway Socceroos
Tuesday, 21 November 2023
Jaber Al-Ahmed International Stadium, Kuwait
Kick-off: TBC
Broadcast: Network 10 and Paramount+