For Peru and Australia, misery and the World Cup have become familiar companions.
Between 1986 and 2018, football-mad Peruvians sat in the CONMEBOL desert, with 34 long years waiting for another chance to see their nation back on football’s biggest stage. In Australia, football fans suffered a similar fate between 1974 and 2006, with 32 years spent hoping that one day their game, marginalized and pushed outside by the Australian mainstream, would get its moment in the sun.
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Both groups of true believers were finally rewarded for their patience – Peru ending their long absence from the world’s biggest sporting event at the 2018 World Cup and the Socceroos qualifying for four tournaments in a row after breaking their drought in 2006 – but on Monday in Qatar, a cohort was sure to add to their story of heartbreak for the benefit of the other.
And now, after 120 minutes and a penalty shootout for the ages, it’s The Blanquirroja who will have to live with the haunting image of Andrew Redmayne diving to his right to prevent Alex Valera from dashing their back-to-back World Cup hopes. Face the memories of his goal-line dance, so exuberant he nearly fell, as Valera started his run. Fight with the image of his massive smile, as big as the laughing clowns of the carnival ball game, as the enormity of his save sank.
Yet one fanbase’s villain is another’s hero. And the scenes that will torment heartbroken South Americans will now be part of Australian sporting folklore.
The photo of Awer Mabil, Martin Boyle and Crag Goodwin leading the charge halfway through can now be placed alongside scenes of the Golden Generation celebrating the penalty that sent them to the 2006 World Cup in the annals of the local game history. Redmayne’s jitter and beaming expression will be immortalized both alongside John Aloisi sprinting along the sideline following that 2005 penalty, but also in countless memes and reactions until they turn off the internet.
“I’m a bit at a loss for words,” said the keeper.
“I can’t thank the team enough, the staff enough. I’m not going to take credit for it because the boys missed 120 minutes. It takes not only the 11 on the pitch, but the boys on the bench , the boys in the stands, the boys who missed this team too.”
“It’s a team effort, it’s a team game. I can’t take more credit for myself than the other 27 who are here,” added Redmayne.
“I’m not a hero, I just played my part like everyone else did tonight.”
As the dust settles and the thinking begins, Redmayne’s moment becomes more and more incredible with every detail recalled. Substituted in the latter stages of the game for Mat Ryan, whose heroism throughout the cycle was arguably the only reason Australia had even managed to secure a playoff spot, his introduction was the biggest bet of the career of coach Graham Arnold.
Perhaps the keeper’s greatest moment came when he handed Sydney FC a penalty shoot-out victory over Perth Glory in the 2018-19 Grand Final. But by the time 2022 rolled around, there was even debate among Sky Blues fans whether it was he or replacement Tom Heward-Belle who should be the starter going forward.
Objectively, Redmayne had been outclassed domestically by Mark Birighitti and Jamie Young throughout the 2021-22 season, and his selection as Australia’s third choice behind Ryan and Danny Vukovic was seen more as a mood and camaraderie choice. in the locker room. than that based on football form.
If Redmayne’s heroism hadn’t happened, his 120th-minute substitution of Ryan would have been nailed the epitaph of Arnold’s coaching career, a final act of pride and trust in faces familiars that served to dash Australian hopes.
But it paid off, and after being nearly sacked after defeats to Japan and Saudi Arabia, he gave his side just one win in their last seven group games and relegated them on the way to the playoffs, Arnold will now become the third Australian to lead. his nation at a World Cup.
The 58-year-old’s explosive rhetoric and pragmatic, risk-averse approach to the footballing side has done him a disservice in the eyes of an increasingly skeptical public, but his commitment to the Socceroos badge is beyond reproach. A willingness to endure difficult times in quarantine, on the road, and away from friends and family is an admirable feature of his passing, deserving far more respect than has been accorded. It is possible to challenge his performance as a coach while acknowledging his sacrifice and commitment.
“I’m speechless because nobody in Australia gave us a chance,” Arnold said.
“I’m responsible for the results. But I’m a coach and a manager; my style is to manage and get the best out of the players and to do things one-on-one, to be on the training ground with them.”
“While COVID has to train and try to do meetings and talk to players in Zoom meetings, that’s not my style,” he continued. “I didn’t like it at all, and to be honest there were times when I almost walked away because it’s not my style of training.
“The only reason I didn’t leave is because of the players and the sacrifices they made.”
Arnold’s team started the contest in somewhat encouraging fashion, especially in contrast to a flat-footed Peruvian outfit. Almost an avatar of the “Australian DNA” Arnold spoke of with his bash-and-crash attacking style, Mitch Duke caught a long ball past defender Bailey Wright and exploded in the third minute to flash a early warning sign. . The 31-year-old repeated his effort three minutes later.
The reason for Duke’s deployment at the tip of the Socceroos spear by Arnold quickly became apparent as the formula for the remainder of the first half began to unfold.
For long periods of possession, the Socceroos would look to kick the ball around the back line and drop Aaron Mooy before eventually looking to fire a long pass to one of the forward players – often on the outside – before to enter the surface. It wasn’t entirely effective, but to expect Arnold to change his approach at this stage of qualifying would have been folly, especially given the sloppy nature of his team in this game.
Meanwhile, the vacuum created by the absence of injured Yoshimar Yotun was evident in Peru’s rise to power, as was the burden of expectations raised by a combination of favorite status and 12,000 fans in the stands against at most 500 Australians. Although able to deny their foes sustained ball control and genuinely menacing looks on goal, there was a distinct lack of imagination and purpose in their resulting attacks.
The Socceroos weren’t exactly playing decisive and incisive calcio – the madness of the result will probably mask the fact that it took until the 81st minute for Ajdin Hrustic to provide the game’s first shot on target, from a free-kick, and the he team struggled to gain meaningful territory without speculative long balls forward – but neither did their fanciest foes. And the match which turned into a fight favored Australia and a defense which seemed more solid than against the United Arab Emirates. There was reason for hope for those who had green and gold in their hearts.
But the teams could not be separated after 90 minutes, forcing both – and the fans with every tackle, every pass and every collision – to prepare for the crushing extra-time limits. In another moment that will hover over the shattered Peruvians, Edison Flores would hit the post with a header just minutes into the second half of extra time – the best chance his side would produce all game long.
And then Redmayne arrived. After Mooy, Goodwin, Hrustic, Jamie Maclaren and Mabil all made it through their penalties to bring Australia to life – Boyle is arguably Qatar’s most grateful man after missing his team’s opener – the Wiggle gray came out. And immortality was sealed.