Football History Fridays: The Socceroos’ 1997 Confederations Cup Campaign

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In the lead up to the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia we will be looking at previous attempts by the Socceroos to match it with the world’s best.

First up: our debut campaign in 1997 hosted by Saudi Arabia.

Key Players

Mark Bosnich, Ned Zelic, Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell

Group

The Socceroos inaugural Confederations Cup outing saw the green and gold paired with Brazil, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. With Australia still a relative unknown in the world of football, the Roos carried an element of surprise into the tournament and put that to use immediately.

A dominant 3-1 victory over Mexico set the tone for what was to be a very successful tournament. Next up was Brazil and a chance to test themselves against the reigning World and South American Champions. Despite facing the likes of Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos the Aussies stood tall with goalkeeper Bosnich in particularly excellent form to keep the Brazilians scoreless en route to a 0-0 draw. Although defeated 1-0 by the hosts Saudi Arabia in the final group match the Australians had already done enough to go through to the last four at the first time of asking.

Knockout Stages

The Socceroos would face an almighty task to make it into the title decider against Uruguay in the semi-final. An opponent who Australia would come to know very well over the next decade, the Uruguayans had breezed through their group but the Roos did well to contain La Celeste. Both sides failed to score in regular time and it was the green and gold who prevailed in extra time thanks to a 92nd minute strike from Kewell.

On to the final and once again the Socceroos were face to face with the might of Brazil. This time however there was to be no defensive heroics as the world champions ran in six of the best, including hat-tricks to Ronaldo and Romario. A red card to Mark Viduka only 24 minutes in didn’t help the cause either. A mighty effort from the Australians to make it all the way to the big dance but once there the gulf in class was all too apparent.

Legacy

Despite a disappointing ending the 1997 Confederations Cup was an important if often forgotten landmark in the development of Australian football. The tournament marked our first big international appearance since the 1974 World Cup and provided a stage for our golden generation to first strut their stuff.

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Coming months after that shocking night against Iran the Socceroos’ performance showed the world that football had come a long way in this country and wasn’t done yet.

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

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