'We scared the living daylights out of Argentina': Vidmars combine to keep FIFA World Cup dream alive
Australia’s hopes of advancing to the FIFA World Cup 1994 in the USA rest on the return leg in Buenos Aires after holding Argentina to a 1-1 draw in front of 44,000 at Sydney Football Stadium.
Australia will be attempting to replicate what Columbia accomplished mere months ago by defeating Argentina on their home turf.
Australian captain Paul Wade had the responsibility of marking Argentine superstar Diego Maradona, which he did this to great effect as Maradona struggled to get into the game.
However, one slip up from dependable defender Milan Ivanovic saw Maradona pounce and deliver the ball to Balbo, who put Argentina 1-0 up.
“He (Maradona) is still a great player and I really had to work hard all night, but I don’t think he got the better of me,” said Wade.
“He didn’t really set the world on fire."
Wade believes that off the back of this performance, people’s perception of football in Australia may begin to change.
He said, “I hope the Australian performance is a warning to FIFA that Australian soccer is on the way up because we scared the living daylights out of Argentina.”
“We wouldn’t be going to Buenos Aires if we didn’t think we could win.”
Socceroos coach Eddie Thomson is not worried about facing Argentina and believes his teams performance deserved more than a draw.
“We played better than them tonight in the first half. We played all over them. I don’t see anything that frightens me," said Thomson.
"The American dream is far from over. We are not out of this fight yet."
He added, “I’m really proud of the guys, we’re every bit as good as them."
Thomson knows going into hostile enemy territory against Argentina will be tough, but he insists the Australian, “won’t be chucking in the towel.”
He believes that Australia will need to improve their concentration and tighten up their defence if they are to win in Buenos Aires. As seen in Sydney, quality teams such as Argentina only need one chance to score.
“The opposition is much better than Canada and we gave away one mistake to enable them to score but we’ve still got a good chance," said Thomson
“We showed tonight we are a good football team and are capable of mixing it with the best in the world."
Australia managed to qualify for the 1992 Olympic games in similar circumstances and Thomson is confident the Socceroos can emulate the same heroics.
“What about that Olympic games team? When we drew 1-1 with Holland in Sydney everyone wrote us off. We drew 2-2 over there and made the Barcelona Olympics.”
When high-priced Roma striker Abel Balbo headed the ball into the top right corner in the 37th minute for Argentina it was a body blow for Australia.
However, Australia’s flying ‘Red baron’ Robbie Slater lifted his teammates and five minutes later Aurello Vidmar equalised to stun Argentina.
“When we scored, I thought the game was ours but their goal so soon to equalise really took us by surprise," said Thomson
“I don’t fear them, but now I have more respect.”
“At first I thought Vidmar was offside when he received the pass, but later realised the referee was correct,” Argentina coach Alfio Basile said.