In the Land Down Under, soccer is the most played outdoor team sport. As it happened with several other states, soccer was introduced to Australia in the late 19th century by mostly British immigrants. At first, the sport was hugely popular among the settlers, but not as much with the native Australians. It wasn’t until the 1950's and 60's when the sport exploded and became extremely popular among Aussies, which also love cricket and rugby.
Australia became a FIFA member through the Australian Soccer Association in 1956. The Australian soccer team is nicknamed the Socceroos and they made their first appearance at the World Cup finals in 1974. They have performed at the tournament a total of three times since, in 2006, 2010 and 2014, and they’ve qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
3 Facts about the Team History
- Golden Generation: The performance of the Socceroos in the 2006 World Cup granted them the title of a ‘golden generation’. At the tournament’s kick-off, Australia was placed into Group F with Japan, Croatia and Brazil, the defending champions. The Aussies defeated Japan, lost to Brazil and played a 2-2 tie with Croatia which led the team to the knockout stage. Despite being eliminated by Italy with a 1-0 score after a controversial penalty, the Australian squad was named AFC National Team of the Year and remained the golden generation in the Australian soccer history.
- Top Players: Tim Cahill has earned over 100 caps for his country and is, with 50 goals, Australia's highest goal scorer of all time. Thanks to his exceptional vertical leap, Cahill has scored most of his goals with his head. Johnny Warren, the legendary midfielder, captained the national team in 24 international matches. When he died, in 2004, he was awarded a full state funeral, the first to be held for a sportsman. More notable soccer players in Australia are Brad Jones, Mitchell Langerak and Robbie Kruise, among others.
- Rivalries: Fierce rivalries developed between Australia and New Zealand and Australia and Japan. With New Zealand, the rivalry history dates back to 1922 when the two teams met for the first time in international debuts for both squads. The neighbour countries maintain a wider friendly rivalry not only in sports but also in culture. Australia is in the lead, as far as soccer is concerned. After the 2006 World Cup the rivalry began with the Japanese national soccer team, which continued through regular matches in various AFC competitions, and Japan has a slight advantage.
3 Fun Facts about the Country
- Australian Wildlife: The animal world in Australia is extraordinary. There are 4 different species of kangaroo and 1,500 types of spiders on Australian soil. The Platypus and Echidnas are native to Australia, and are the only two mammals that lay eggs. Let’s not forget wombats, koalas, the emu, and Tasmanian devils.
- The Capital: Both Melbourne and Sidney were considered for the capital of Australia and the two cities couldn’t agree on which should be the seat of state. It was eventually decided that neither of the two will assume the role of the capital and a new city will be built in the middle and settle the dispute. Hence, Australia’s capital is Canberra.
- The Didgeridoo: As an indigenous Australian instrument, the didgeridoo has been around for 1,500 years. In use today, the wooden trumpet is believed to have health benefits. It is said that it relieves stress, reduces snoring and improves circulation. On occasions, didgeridoo music is played during surgeries.