Duncan Mackay

Australia's journey to qualifying for its fifth consecutive FIFA World Cup appearance, when they beat Peru on penalties in an inter-continental playoff in Doha, will long live in the memory of anyone who saw it thanks to the unique dancing display put on by substitute goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne.

The 33-year-old, whose whole career has been played in Australia, was brought on for his third cap with three minutes to play at the end of extra time and stopped the last kick as the Socceroos won 5-4 on penalties after the match ended goalless.

"He's a very good penalty saver and I did something that could affect them mentally," said Australian coach Graham Arnold, who revealed the madcap plan had been hatched more than a month ago.

"They were probably asking themselves the question, 'why is this guy being brought on? He has to be good'.

"Maybe that was the reason they hit the post. It's a one per cent mental effort to trouble the Peru penalty takers. It was a risk, but it worked out."

Redmayne's very public display of dad dancing was certainly a distraction. He danced along the line, waving his arms furiously, wiggling his hips and moving from side to side at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium. If he had behaved like that in a Sydney nightclub, the bouncers would surely have been escorting him off the premises. 

"If I could gain one or two per cent by doing something stupid and making a fool of myself, then I was going to do it," Redmayne said.

"I only played a tiny part; I don't think I'm a hero or anything. The boys put in a hell of a shift to run out 120 minutes against a really good opposition."

Goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne saves the penalty which meant Australia beat 5-4 in a shootout to qualify for their fifth consecutive FIFA World Cup ©Getty Images
Goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne saves the penalty which meant Australia beat 5-4 in a shootout to qualify for their fifth consecutive FIFA World Cup ©Getty Images

After saving the final penalty, the bearded goalkeeper ran to the side of the goal and stood as still as a statue with eyes wide and fists clenched, before his team-mates jumped on top of him.

The keeper revealed that he was following the instructions of the referee during the penalty shootout.

"I think he was a bit bemused about my antics, he threatened a yellow card a couple of times for trying to provoke players, I said I wasn't doing that," Redmayne said.

"[He] said to me the last two penalties: 'If you save this you win but don't go running off celebrating because we need to check on VAR (video assistant referee) because you move around a lot.'"

But then the Socceroos' World Cup qualifying campaigns have always tended to be a bit different from other countries.

Australia did not try to compete in the the World Cup for the first time until they entered the qualifying tournament for the competition in England in 1966.

Of the four countries in the Asia-Oceania qualifying group, South Korea withdrew, and South Africa was banned having originally been placed in the group to avoid another African country because of fears of protests over apartheid. 

It left only one opponent, North Korea, and the two matches were played at a neutral venue in Cambodia in November 1965.

The Australian preparation consisted of four weeks of training in Cairns, but only one practice match against a local side. 

The North Koreans, meanwhile, had played around 35 internationals in three years and the squad consisted of full-time players and members of the services. 

The Australian squad of 20 players included seven Scotsman, five Englishmen and five Australians, plus an Irishman and a German.

Several of the Australians had been affected by injuries or illness in the lead-up to the first game in the Olympic Stadium before a crowd of 60,000. The heat and the humidity were oppressive, and the speed and physicality of their opponents took the Australians by surprise as they ran out 6-1 winners in the first match and 3-1 in the second.

The North Korean who really caught the eye of the Socceroos was Pak Do Ik, who during the World Cup in England scored the winning goal as his side caused one of the biggest sensations in the history of football to knock out Italy 1-0 and reach the quarter-finals. There, they led Portugal 3-0 before eventually losing 5-3.

After the two qualifying matches, Australia went on to play a series of friendly matches against Asian countries and a Swedish team to help defray the cost of the World Cup expedition. 

Had these matches been played before, not after, it would have made sense and given the Australians much needed match practice and acclimatisation.

For the 1970 World Cup, Australia narrowly failed to reach Mexico after losing 2-1 on aggregate to Israel before finally making it to the 1974 event in West Germany. Led by Rale Rasic, a bunch of part-time players, some of whom had to give up their jobs to take part, Australia prevailed from the first stage of qualifying, winning a group that included New Zealand, Indonesia and Iraq.

Australia then faced Iran home and away, winning the first leg in Sydney 3-0 before Iran won 2-0 in the second leg in Tehran in front of 120,000 hostile fans who failed to suck the ball into the net for that vital equaliser.

South Korea then awaited the Socceroos. Both matches ended in draws, prompting a hastily arranged decider in Hong Kong in November 1973. Jimmy Mackay (my uncle) scored the goal which booked Australia its place in the 1974 tournament with a looping drive in the 70th minute that deceived the keeper and flew into the net. 

It was quite an achievement to qualify for the first time when only 16 teams took part and Australia did not disgrace themselves in a group that included hosts and eventual winners West Germany. "It was a Neil Armstrong moment," Rasic said of the achievement. "A journey for so called amateurs that never participated in that kind of global tournament. 

"A massive success for the country and a massive success for the people who sacrificed everything, their jobs, their families, an absolutely phenomenal success."

Jimmy Mackay waves the boot that scored the goal that qualified the Socceroos for the 1974 FIFA World Cup for the first time upon his arrival back in Australia ©Duncan Mackay
Jimmy Mackay waves the boot that scored the goal that qualified the Socceroos for the 1974 FIFA World Cup for the first time upon his arrival back in Australia ©Duncan Mackay

It was 2005, after a wait of more than three decades, before Australia qualified for another World Cup in a now-united Germany. 

After the excruciatingly narrow loss to Iran at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1997 when the Socceroos, managed by former England coach Terry Venables, blew a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 and went out on away goals, getting to Germany depended once again on a series of brilliant saves by goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer and a penalty kick by John Aloisi to defeat Uruguay in a playoff.

Australia joined the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in 2006, which has made the passage to qualifying for the World Cup easier, demonstrated by fact that having qualified only twice in 16 attempts when they took part via Oceania, they have made it four-in-a-row since joining the AFC.

Mind you, "easier" is a relative term after a qualification campaign for Qatar 2022 that stretched an incredible 1,008 days and saw Australia play 20 qualification matches, just four of which took place at home due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"I am so proud of the players, staff, and everyone who has been involved in our campaign over the past four years," Arnold said. "Throughout COVID, players and staff had to live away from their families for weeks and sometimes months on end to help our nation achieve today’s result and our goal of qualification for a fifth straight FIFA World Cup.

“In many of our camps the players and staff were confined largely to their hotel rooms when they weren’t at the training pitch or match stadium. The dedication and sacrifice that has gone into this campaign from so many people has been immense, and as coach of Australia I am so thrilled that millions of people across our country will today be talking about the Socceroos - a team that represents modern-day Australia through its diversity and multiculturalism and unites the nation."