Stories of Australia’s World Cup qualification: 1973

To mark the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Socceroos squad which secured our maiden appearance at the 1974 FIFA World Cup™, revisit the incredible moments and how they made history. 

A few days later, the current squad embark on their own journey as they aim to reach a sixth consecutive FIFA World Cup™ appearance and seventh overall when their Second Round Asian Qualifiers commence against Bangladesh and Palestine in Melbourne and Kuwait City respectively.

Socceroos Tickets banner v Bangladesh or Maldives

Crunch World Cup qualifiers take you an emotional rollercoaster. 

So much at stake, the drama, the nerves, it’s like nothing else.

As an example, so many Australians will tell you about “that night” against Uruguay when we qualified for the World Cup in 2005 in Sydney.

It was special for so many reasons. And here’s why...

Socceroos make history in the 70s

While Australia's first international was played against New Zealand in 1922, its first attempt at qualification for the World Cup wasn't until 1965, and it took until 1974 before it made it.

And with just 16 nations competing at the 1974 World Cup in West Germany, it was an even harder task for our part-time national team players.

But they famously wrote their names into our history books in Hong Kong after a mammoth qualification route. 

November 13, 1973

Under the guidance of coach Rale Rasic, Australia prevailed from the first stage of qualifying, winning a group that included New Zealand, Indonesia and Iraq.

Australia then faced Iran home and away, winning the first leg in Sydney 3-0 before Iran won 2-0 in the second leg in Tehran.

South Korea then awaited the Socceroos.

Both matches ended in draws, prompting a hastily-arranged decider in Hong Kong on November 13, 1973.

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Jimmy Mackay, Harry Williams and Jimmy Rooney in 1974
Jimmy Mackay, Harry Williams and Jimmy Rooney. Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald

The famous goal 

Jimmy Mackay scored the goal which booked Australia its place in the 1974 tournament. What a goal it was too. 

From distance, in the 70th minute against South Korea, Mackay hit a looping drive that deceived the keeper and flew into the net. 

It was the most significant goal to date in national team history... and we were off to the World Cup for the first time after a gruelling 1-0 win. 


The team

The lineup that night was: Jim Fraser (GK, Doug Utjesnovic, Peter Wilson, Manfred Schaefer, Col Curran, Ray Richards, Jim Mackay, Jim Rooney, Atti Abonyi (Adrian Alston 56), Ray Baartz, Branko Buljevic.

1974 World Cup

Australia drew host West Germany, nearby East Germany and South American team Chile in a difficult Group 1.

Its first match was against East Germany in Hamburg and Col Curran claimed an unwanted piece of history, becoming the first Australian to score in the World Cup finals - albeit for the other side.

Australia lost that match 2-0 and backed up four days later against West Germany, losing 3-0. Against Chile in Berlin, Australia claimed its first World Cup point courtesy of a 0-0 draw.


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+