Socceroos at Confederations Cup: 500 days to go

There are just 500 days until the Socceroos head to Russia for next year’s Confederations Cup. The 2017 edition will mark the 20th anniversary of one of the best international results for Australia, when they rocked the tournament in Saudi Arabia to make it all the way to the final against Brazil.

Some of the best names Australian football has ever produced like Mark Bosnich, Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka and Ned Zelic showed the world just what talent there was in Australian football.

We look back at the Socceroos incredible run to the decider.

Socceroos 1997

1st Group Match : Australia 3-1 Mexico

Coming less than two weeks after the heartbreak against Iran, the Socceroos weren’t expected to put up much of a fight against a strong Mexican outfit. 

But someone forget to tell the Aussies. 

Viduka gave them the lead just before half-time before John Aloisi doubled the advantage on the hour mark after a clinical counter attack. 

Terry Venables had his green and gold men well organised and content to sit back and hit on the break.

The Mexicans eventually pulled one back from the penalty spot with nine minutes left and piled pressure on the Aussies. 

But they held firm and then sealed the result on the break in stoppage-time, with Craig Foster’s cross picking out an unmarked Damien Mori who made no mistake.

Next up, Brazil.

Ned Zelic and Ronaldo

2nd Group Match: Australia 0-0 Brazil

What a challenge this was for the Socceroos. A star-studded Brazil outfit in full preparations for France 98, with names including Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Rivaldo and Bebeto.

But the Aussies weren’t overawed, producing a stoic defensive performance to repel everything the world champions threw at them. 

The five-man defensive wall of Tony Vidmar, Steve Horvat, Milan Ivanovic, Alex Tobin and Stan Lazaridis frustrated the Brazilians while Bosnich was flawless in goal.

Viduka had the Socceroos best chance on the counter, his close-range effort forcing a smart save from Dida.

It ended goalless, a result which made the world sit up and take notice.

Terry Venables

3rd Group Match: Australia 0-1 Saudi Arabia

Needing only a draw against the host nation to progress, Venables rested Viduka and Kewell with one eye on the semis. The Aussies dominated the play but just couldn’t score.

Instead, just before the break Mohammed Al-Khilaiwi cut a swathe through the heart of the defence to score. 

The Socceroos continued to carve out excellent opportunities but found no way past Saudi excellent keeper Mohammed Al-Deayea. 

And Brazil’s win over Mexico in the other group match meant Australia stayed in second spot in the group and progressed to the semis against Uruguay.

Harry Kewell

Semi Final – Australia 1-0 Uruguay (in golden-goal extra-time)

Uruguay came through their group as easy winners but couldn’t compete with the energy and competitive spirit of the Socceroos.

Both sides traded chances but neither was able to break the deadlock. Forcing the match into sudden-death extra-time. Up stepped Kewell.

Within two minutes of the restart, Ivanovic found Kewell in space with the teenager cutting in from the right and unleashing a powerful drive from the edge of the box which arrowed into the bottom corner.

It was a sublime drive to win an absorbing contest, with Kewell the youngest scorer at the tournament at just 19, two months and 27 days old. 

Romario and Ronaldo

Final: Australia 0-6 Brazil

Unfortunately for the Aussies, the fairytale couldn’t be completed. The Samba Stars' class shone through and this time there was no repeat of the defensive heroics we saw just seven days earlier.

The pace, skill and expert finishing of Romario and Ronaldo was too much to handle, with the pair both scoring hat-tricks on the way to the big win.

The Socceroos’ cause wasn’t helped by a first-half red card to Viduka, when the score was just 1-0. So a disappointing end but what a memorable 10 days it was for the Aussies in the Middle East.

Can they produce something similar in Russia next year?