Tournament Profile: 1967 Quốc Khánh Cup

As we celebrate a century of Socceroos memories in the lead-up to September's series against New Zealand, each week we'll be looking back at a major tournament the team have played in over the years. 

We'll be working back in time, covering 11 tournaments that are all significant parts of our story: the 2018 FIFA World Cup, 2015 AFC Asian Cup, 2014 FIFA World Cup, 2010 FIFA World Cup, 2006 FIFA World Cup, 1997 Confederations Cup, 1992 Olympics, 1988 Gold Cup, 1974 FIFA World Cup, 1967 Friendly Nations Tournament and the 1956 Olympics. 

Our tenth piece looks at the Socceroos' 1967 Friendly Nations Tournament in Saigon.

NOTE: The Australian national side were not then known as the ‘Socceroos’, however, it is widely agreed upon by the players that the 1967 tour contributed heavily to the birth of the Socceroos spirit.

Read on to re-live the tournament in detail, and keep an eye on the Socceroos' social media channels for more special content, and a chance to share your memories of these matches. 

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Australia was invited to participate in the Vietnam National Day Soccer Tournament (Quốc Khánh) in Saigon in November 1967. The series took place while the rumblings of distant artillery guns of the Vietnam War could be heard clearly in the grounds.

Our coach

The coach for the 1967 tournament was Joe Vlasits.

He was heavily involved with local clubs, including Canterbury, Prague, St George Budapest and Bankstown.

He had a big input in the formation of National Youth teams before becoming national team coach in the late 60s.

It was Vlasits who appointed Johnny Warren as captain of the Socceroos, and took them through the rigorous 1970 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign. 

He finished with 13 wins from 23 'A' internationals in charge. 

Vlasits passed away in 1985 at the age of 64. 

Joe Vlasits

Our squad

In the lead-up to the tournament, recently appointed coach ‘Uncle Joe’ Vlatsis attracted some criticism for his selection of a youthful squad that was captained by 24-year-old Johnny Warren.

Warren was one of only two survivors from the first ever Australian touring party, whose 1966 World Cup qualification hopes were ended two years earlier in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Change was considered a necessity ahead of the 1970 qualification campaign and the 1967 tour of Vietnam shaped as a perfect opportunity to grow the experience of Australia’s next generation of talented stars.  

As a result, the squad who travelled to Vietnam boasted an average age of 23 and included just one player over the age of 26.  

While many may have doubted it at the time, Vlatsis’ gutsy approach forged success both in the short and long term.

Eight players who travelled to Vietnam would go on to play key roles in the side who qualified for Australia’s first ever World Cup finals appearance in 1974.

Australia Vietnam 1967 Socceroos

Players: Attila Abonyi (21), Stan Ackerley (24), Ray Baartz (20), Ron Corry (26), Ted De Lyster (20), George Keith (23), Ray Lloyd (24), Tommy McColl (22), Frank Micic (26), Ray Richards (23), Roger Romanowicz (20), Manfred Schaefer (24), Billy Vojtek (23), Johnny Warren (24), John Watkiss (26), Alan Westwater (21), Gary Wilkins (22).

Support Staff

Joe Vlasits (coach), John Barclay (manager), Jim Connell (manager), Dr Brian Corrigan (doctor), Lou Lazzari (masseur), Tony Boskovic (referee), Tom Patrick (Qantas staff), Terry Smith (journalist), Martin Royal (commentator), Don Woolford (AAP).

Nick Pantelis (22) was selected but had not yet been naturalised and was unable to travel.

Our location

In late October 1967, the Australian touring party gathered for a last-minute training camp in North Ryde, Sydney, wide-eyed and with the world at their feet.

They soon boarded a Pan American Airways flight to the Vietnamese capital Saigon which was in the grip of a devastating guerrilla war. 

The team were to play their part in the ‘Friendly Nations Tournament,’ a form of soft diplomacy designed to forge unity within the allied nations.

The matches themselves took place in a stadium which had to be scanned for landmines ahead of kick-off. Players recall the ghastly experience of taking to the pitch upon a flare-lit backdrop of military helicopters and distant explosions.

The team stayed at the Caravelle Hotel in downtown Saigon, nicknamed the ‘Golden Building’, home to the Australian Embassy and Australian soldiers who befriended the team. 

Johnny Warren 1967 Socceroos Vietnam Australia

Our opponents

Drawn in Group A alongside New Zealand, Singapore and the hosts South Vietnam.

Group B comprised of South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand and Hong Kong. The top two from each group would go through to a semi-final where winner 1 played runner-up 2 with the two winners meeting in the final. 

Our results 

So to the tournament itself. 

The Socceroos' maiden encounter on the road to success in 1967 took place on a heavy Cong Hoa Stadium surface in front of 20,000 cheering troops on the 5th of November. Australia were first pitted against traditional rivals New Zealand, who they historically faced in their first international back in 1922.

A goal-packed contest ended 5-3 in favour of Australia. 20-year-old Ray Baartz opened the scoring inside seven minutes before captain Johnny Warren added one of his own six minutes later.

The second half was headlined by 21-year-old Attila Abonyi scoring a hat-trick on his international debut. New Zealand’s goalscorers on the day were Raymond Mears, Steve Nemeth and Colin Shaw.

The Australians then faced South Vietnam on 7 November. Leading 1-0 with a goal scored by 24-year-old captain Warren in the 35th minute, the Socceroos held out in a mud-filled pitch for victory over the hosts.

In the next game, the Australians went on a goal feast destroying the Singaporean team 5-1, Abonyi bagging a hat-trick. 

This led to a semi-final tie against a stubborn Malaysian side who the Socceroos narrowly defeated 1-0 with Ray Baartz netting in extra time. 

On November 14, the Australians lined out against South Korea in the final of the tournament in front of a full house of 30,000 spectators. After the Australian Army had been refused and then granted entry via the players striking, the Australians went on to capture the Independence Cup with a 3-2 victory, captain Warren netting the winner.

The win in this match by Australia meant they had won their first international tournament.