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Australia’s national soccer team is full of pride and works hard toward making the Aussie public proud. That has been achieved in large measure throughout its existence and is the only national team to have won major titles in two regions having won both the AFC Asian Cup and OFC Nations Cup. Despite its small population Australia is a great sporting nation.
However, fans may be beginning to worry that the dark days of the national side could soon be returning, as World Cup qualification for Qatar 2022 hangs in the balance with less than eight months to go before a ball is kicked at the biggest soccer party of the past four years. But, could it be the returning curse over the Socceroos that has stopped them from reaching the World Cup finals, or is there a bigger concern regarding the development of young players?
The third round of AFC World Cup qualification is now over, and Australia has missed out on their chance to reach Qatar through the most straightforward method. The Aussies were drawn in Group B alongside Saudi Arabia, Japan, Oman, China and Vietnam, knowing that a top-two finish would have been enough to automatically book their passage through to the World Cup finals in Qatar.
However, three straight draws to end the campaign left Australia clinging to third, which means a tie in the fourth round. If anything, Australia were fortunate that qualification ended when it did, as there were lingering doubts that the nation could have missed out on qualification altogether. However, the attention will now turn to June, and potentially two massive qualifiers.
The last rounds of the World Cup playoffs to reach the tournament in Qatar take place in June. Australia’s first challenge will be to get past the United Arab Emirates, who they will clash with on June 7th. The UAE finished third in Group A of the third round, after winning three of the ten games that they played. During that qualification campaign, they picked up 12 points, which is slightly less than the 15 that Australia managed to win.
Unfortunately for the winning team in the fourth round, that isn’t the end of their qualification campaign, as they will then come up against the team that finished fifth in the very competitive CONMEBOL region. That team was Peru, who will be looking to reach the World Cup for the second straight year. This fixture will bring back memories for Aussie fans, as Peru beat Australia 2-0 in the final group stage game of the 2018 World Cup. It will also be the biggest test that they have faced in qualification, as Peru won seven of their 18 games in qualification, which included victories over Ecuador and Colombia.
It was well-documented throughout Australia’s dry run of failing to qualify for the World Cup that a soccer curse could have been at play. It was first teased by former captain Johnny Warren, who said that he believed that a hex was put on the team as they attempted to qualify for the 1970 World Cup. The story says that the curse was put on the team during the third game against Mozambique, as bones were buried underneath the goals of the Aussie team.
Warren admitted that the curse almost seemed to play a part in Australia’s failure to reach the World Cup in 1970, as they headed to Israel. The former captain revealed that star players for the team picked up mysterious illnesses or injuries, while their flight to Tel Aviv was also delayed for hours. Warren went further by admitting that the curse almost certainly also played a part in the performances of players in that game, as own goals and poor decisions made sure that they weren’t able to end their long wait to reach the World Cup finals for the first time.
However, how true the curse really is can be questioned, since Australia would eventually break their duck and qualify for the World Cup at the next attempt. But, they were eliminated at the group stage after taking one point from the three games played in Germany at the World Cup in 1974.
Many believed that the curse was at play for generation, as Australia constantly fell short in their ambition to reach the World Cup between 1978 and 2002. However, there were signs that it was finally coming to an end ahead of the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Australia caused a massive shock by reaching the World Cup that year, as they overcame Uruguay in the playoff round, eventually winning on penalties after the tie was level 1-1 on aggregate after the two legs. The match-winning goal from the spot was scored by John Alioisi.
Since that victory, Australia has gone on to reach the next three World Cups, which included their most recent showing at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. However, their record on the grandest stage hasn’t been strong at all, as they have failed to win a single game in their last six appearances at the World Cup. Many could question whether instead of being a curse, the development of players in the country has stalled, which has allowed many of the emerging nations in the region to surpass the levels that Australia is able to reach.
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