Tournament Profile: 1974 FIFA World Cup

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

We've worked 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 ninth piece looks at the Socceroos' first World Cup campaign at the 1974 FIFA World Cup in West Germany. 

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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Our qualification journey 

In this era, 16 nations qualified for the World Cup finals (changing to 24 in 1982 and 32 in 1998).

The Socceroos' path to the 1974 FIFA World Cup in West Germany began with a 1-1 draw against New Zealand in Auckland courtesy of a strike from Brian Turner. Wins against Iraq and Indonesia followed before the side drew 3-3 against New Zealand and 0-0 with Iraq.

The final match of the first phase of qualification saw the Socceroos smash Indonesia to clinch top spot in the group and advance to the Zone B Final against Iran in two home-and-away legs.

After triumphing 3-0 on home soil in the first leg, 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.

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 Branko Buljevic and Ray Baartz scored 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. It was here that Jimmy Mackay immortalised himself in Australian football history when he blasted a 70th-minute thunderbolt that guided Australia to victory and a place in its first-ever FIFA World Cup Finals.

Watch legendary coach Rale Rasic and squad members Adrian AlstonJim Rooney and Doug Utjesenovic, Jim Fraser and Ray Baartz talk through the historic 1974 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign below. 

Our coach

The Socceroos coach for the 1974 World Cup was Rale Rasic.

Rasic immigrated to Australia in 1962, but returned to Yugoslavia after 18 months to serve in the army. Once his obligations were met, Rasic returned to Australia and played football in the Victorian league with Footscray JUST. 

After an injury cut his playing career short, Rasic moved into coaching and where guided Footscray into the play-offs and then to the Victorian title in 1969.

A brief stint with Melbourne Hungaria followed before he was appointed Socceroos coach at the age of 34. Rasic also coached NSW side St George, alongside taking on the national team role at the same time.

Rale Rasic in Socceroos training in 1974
Rale Rasic in Socceroos training in 1974

Rasic went on to mastermind Australia’s qualification and participation at the 1974 FIFA World Cup before leaving the role after the tournament. 

Having been the first coach to take Australia to the finals of the World Cup, Rasic holds a unique position in Australian football. In 2004, Rasic was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his service to soccer as a player, coach and administrator.

Coach of the 1974 Socceroos Rale Rasic speaking at an Asian Cup event.
Coach of the 1974 Socceroos Rale Rasic speaking at an Asian Cup event.

Our squad

Australia's squad for the 1974 FIFA World Cup was heavily influenced by migrants. Of the 22 Australian players who made up the 1974 World Cup squad, all but eight had come through Australia’s post-war immigration programme.

Englishman Peter Wilson was the captain, Hungarian-born Atti Abonyi and English striker Adrian Alston provided the attacking weapons while German Manfred Schaefer returned to his homeland to provide the steel in Australia’s defence.  Harry Williams also became the first Indigenous Australian to play at a World Cup.

Most of the players held down blue-collar jobs in areas such as sales, and were required to take extended leave for the tournament. 

Socceroos Australia East Germany 1974 FIFA World Cup

Socceroos (Club at time of 1974 squad announcement) 

Goalkeepers: Allan Maher (Sutherland Shire SFC), Jim Milisavljević (Footscray JUST),  Jack Reilly (Hakoah Eastern Suburbs).

Defenders: Colin Curran (Western Suburbs), Ivo Rudic (Pan-Hellenic SC), Manfred Schaefer (St George-Budapest SC), Doug Utjesenović  (St George-Budapest SC), John Watkiss (Hakoah Eastern Suburbs), Harry Williams (St George-Budapest SC), Peter Wilson (Safeway United SC). 

Midfielders: Dave Harding (Pan-Hellenic SC), Jimmy Mackay (Hakoah Eastern Suburbs), Raymond Richards (Club Marconi Fairfield), Jimmy Rooney  (APIA Leichhardt), Max Tolson (Safeway United SC). 

Attackers: Attila Abonyi (St George-Budapest SC), Adrian Alston (Safeway United SC), Branko Buljevic (Footscray JUST), Ernie Campbell (Club Marconi Fairfield), Gary Manuel (Pan-Hellenic SC), Peter Ollerton (APIA Leichhardt), Johnny Warren (St George-Budapest SC).

Our location

The 1974 edition of the FIFA World Cup was played in West Germany (and West Berlin) between 13 June and 7 July.

The Socceroos played their first two group games at the Volksparkstadion in Hamburg while their final match was at the Olympic Stadium in West Berlin.

Socceroos 1974 West Germany

Our opponents

The Socceroos drew hosts West Germany, nearby East Germany, and South American team Chile in a difficult Group 1.

Socceroos logo 1974
Socceroos logo 1974

Our results 

So to the World Cup itself. 

Despite losing 2-1 to Israel in their final friendly before the 1974 FIFA World Cup, Australia came into the game on the back of imposing form thanks to a rampaging qualification run, which saw them lose only once from 11 games (W5, D5).

The 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 with the likes of Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Mueller and Ui Hoeness gracing the pitch.

The Socceroos saved their best result for last, against Chile in Berlin. In dreadful conditions, it was the day Australia claimed its first World Cup point courtesy of a 0-0 draw - a record that would stand for over 32 years. 

Socceroos at the 1974 FIFA World Cup