Three of the men central to Australia’s truly tense, but ultimately spinetingling shootout success over Uruguay on November 16, 2005 have provided firsthand recounts of their memories from the Socceroos’ qualification victory over La Celeste in the latest episode of the FFA Podcast.
Defender Tony Vidmar, goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, and attacker John Aloisi, who each played integral roles in helping Australia advance to their first FIFA World Cup Finals appearance in 32 years, reflected on some of their thoughts, feelings, and emotions from the evening that is forever etched in Australian sporting folklore in the Podcast, which can now be subscribed to on iTunes and Spotify.
Vidmar, who could count on one hand the number of penalties that he had taken throughout his long and eventful club and national team career prior to the match, explained that taking a spot kick in the contest was not on his radar prior to the encounter, however following full time in extra time, a surge of responsibility swelled within him.
“We kind of had an idea of the guys who had put their hands up before the match,” Vidmar said. “But then there was a curly one thrown in there with ‘Bresch’ (Mark Bresciano) and ‘Emo’ (Brett Emerton) not being involved [both had been substituted].”
“I think that is where it started to get a little bit interesting because I think Johnny (Aloisi) put his hand up straight away, so I think ‘Arnie’ (Graham Arnold) was searching for one more person but hadn’t had any luck.
“I felt that I wanted to step up and take it rather than people saying whoever took it and missed, and I didn’t want it to be that way. In Arnie’s words, he says ‘redemption’, but I felt that I wanted to take it and be responsible if I scored or didn’t score.”
Despite being a predominantly right-footed player, Vidmar took his penalty, Australia’s third on the night, with his left.
“I am a natural right-footer,” Vidmar added. “But I felt over that distance, from the penalty spot, I would have more control and power with my left than my natural right. I felt with the left it was the right choice, but I think even (Guus) Hiddink was questioning what was happening!”
Vidmar’s long-time national team teammates Schwarzer and Aloisi also played starring roles in the shootout – Schwarzer making two stunning saves up against Dario Rodriguez and Marcelo Zalayeta, and Aloisi ultimately firing home the winning penalty beyond the outstretched arm of Fabian Carini.
Despite there being over 82,500 people in what was a heaving Telstra Stadium on the night, Schwarzer and Aloisi both said they experienced moments of calm, quiet, and composure throughout the shootout, as each entered ‘the zone’.
“For me that was one of those surreal moments,” Schwarzer said.
“People talk about being in the zone, not hearing anything else. It [the crowd] is a background noise as opposed to being in the middle of the cauldron. And there were moments in that game, and in that penalty shootout, where I felt like I was in a room by myself and one-on-one against the kicker. No one else was there. After the kick is when it comes back to full volume.”
“Everybody was in the zone, everybody knew the magnitude of it. We had all been there before and tasted defeat, and we knew what the disappointment is like. We were all at stages in our career where we knew this was our last opportunity.”
Aloisi echoed Schwarzer’s sentiments, stating that despite the raucous scenes swirling around him, as he strode to the spot, he could hear only whispers.
“I had a very similar feeling [to Schwarzer],” Aloisi said. “And I don’t know why [for me] it was quiet because Mark had just saved the penalty and everyone was excited about that and cheering.”
“There is a photo of me just walking away from the group and my head is down and I start to focus on what I had to do.
“It felt like there were only a few people in the Stadium. It felt like I could just hear whispers with people saying ‘is this it? Are we going if we score?’
“I wouldn’t have even known that there were 83,000 people there, that’s how quiet it was.
“The walk from the halfway line to the penalty spot can normally be a long one but this time it just seemed like it went quick and it felt like it was a short distance.
“When people say that they are in the zone, I think that was the moment that I was in, because I couldn’t hear anything really,” he said.
And, who could say if Schwarzer, or even Aloisi, would ever have had the opportunity to enter ‘the zone’ had Brett Emerton, one of the fittest Socceroos of all time, not have succumbed to cramp throughout extra time?
When Emerton was replaced by Josip Skoko, substitute goalkeeper Zeljko Kalac was warming up, and may have been introduced by Socceroos boss Guus Hiddink to play a role in the shootout.
“I was dumfounded [when I saw Kalac warming up],” Schwarzer added. “I double-took about 15 times to see if this was for real… ‘am I seeing what I am seeing?’
“I know that we have seen it since then that goalkeepers are replaced for penalty shootouts at World Cups. You know it is possible, but you just don’t think that it is going to happen to you.
“I have always felt that I have always had a pretty good record at saving penalties, so that surprised me even more. I am still thankful to this day for Brett Emerton for getting cramps and having to be substituted.
“To have been replaced at the final hurdle, that would have been a moment where the devastation would have been so severe. I don’t know if I would have been able to have come back from that.”
PODCAST: Introducing the FFA Podcast! Episode 1: The Olympic Edition
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