Football History Fridays: Socceroos’ 2001 Confederations Cup Campaign

Last week we had a look at the Socceroos’ maiden Confederations Cup and despite a 6-0 hammering at the hands of Brazil in the final, the tournament was considered a success.

After trouncing the 2000 OFC Nations Cup, Australia earned the right the compete at the 2001 Confederations Cup. The tournament was hosted by South Korea and Japan in preparation for the 2002 World Cup. Could the Socceroos go one better?

Key Players

Mark Schwarzer, Josip Skoko, Steve Corica

Group

Australia was drawn in a tricky group featuring France, Mexico and South Korea. The Socceroos couldn’t have made a better start as they defeated Mexico 2-0, their second against El Tri after knocking them off four years previous. However, the real challenge for the Roos arrived when they came face to face with reigning World and European champions France.

Both sides were missing some big names. For France Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry were absent while Australia would have to make do without Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka. Remarkably however it was Clayton Zane, (that’s right, the current assistant at Newcastle Jets), that proved the difference as he tucked away a deflection from a Josip Skoko free kick on the hour mark. Mark Schwarzer was equally as influential with a string of fine saves to preserve both his team’s lead and winning record.

That run came to an end against South Korea two days later but despite the 1-0 loss the Socceroos had once again made it to the knockout stages.

Knockout Stages

In the semi-final played in Yokohama, Australia found themselves face to face with a soon to be rival in Japan. What followed was another close loss as Hidetoshi Nakata scored the only goal of the game two minutes before the break. A tough result to swallow but their shot at honours was not yet over. A third-place playoff and a shot at revenge against fellow 1997 finalists Brazil lay in wait and the Socceroos did not disappoint. In another tense match the only goal came courtesy of Shaun Murphey in the 84th minute.  Another giant-killing performance and an excuse to (temporarily) call themselves the third best team in the world.

Legacy

While a 3-1 win over England would come in the not-too-distant future, this campaign was probably the Socceroos’ high point until that famous night in Sydney. Having defeated both the 1998 World Cup finalists was a fantastic achievement and showed, even more so than 1997, just what Australian football could when given a big stage. Tough times lay ahead though as the Roos failed to get past Uruguay and subsequently missed the 2002 World Cup. They would also sit out the 2003 Confederations Cup after being upset by New Zealand in the final of the 2002 OFC Nations Cup.

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Third year Sports Media student at the University of Canberra. Interests include sports history and stats...you know, all the fun stuff.