The 20th FIFA World Cup™ kicks off in a few days and oceaniafootball.com is taking the opportunity to look back at some of the key moments which have defined history for the Oceania Football Confederation on the world stage.
FIFA World Cup™ West Germany 1974
This event was a momentous occasion for both Oceania and then Member Association Australia as they made their first appearance at this level of competition. The Socceroos shared their group with Chile and the two German teams, Germany DR and Germany FR. The Oceania representatives were defeated by Germany DR 2-0 and eventual winners Germany FR 3-0. Despite Australia ending their campaign without scoring a goal, they finished on a positive note, earning a 0-0 draw over Chile. The first ever point for an Oceania representative at a FIFA World Cup™ tournament.
FIFA World Cup™ Spain 1982
Eight years after Australia’s first ever World Cup appearance, New Zealand qualified after beating China 2-1 in the final round of the international play-off. The two goal scorers Steve Wooddin (24’) and a young Wynton Rufer (47’) allowed the All Whites to book their tickets for Spain and their first ever FIFA World Cup™. It proved a tough first-time outing as New Zealand finished last in their group with three consecutive losses against Scotland (5-2), Soviet Union (3-0) and Brazil (4-0). On the upside for the squad, Steve Sumner entered the record books as the first Oceania player to score a goal at the finals following his strike against Scotland. Future OFC Player of the Century Wynton Rufer, then a fresh-faced 19 year-old and the youngest player in the line-up, appeared in all three group matches.
FIFA World Cup™ France 1998
The year 1998 was a special one in the footballing history for New Caledonia and OFC. Even if the Confederation didn’t have any teams representing it at the FIFA World Cup™ France 1998, it did have one player born and raised in the Pacific doing the region proud. With the whole of the Pacific behind him, Christian Karembeu helped hosts France lift the World Cup™ trophy.
Karembeu started his career on Lifou, the largest of the Loyalty Islands found off New Caledonia’s east coast. He left his homeland at the age of 17 to attend the Nantes Football Academy in France where he won the French Championship in 1995 with the Nantes senior team. Three years later, he won another trophy, the UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid.
Two years after winning the World Cup™, Karembeu won the European Championship before announcing his international retirement in 2002 with 53 caps and one goal scored.
He also played at club level for Sampdoria Genoa, Middlesbrough, Olympiacos FC, Servette Geneva and Bastia where he ended his career.
FIFA World Cup™ Germany 2006
In 2006, Australia qualified for their second FIFA World Cup™ and the last one as an OFC Member Association, as they went on to join the Asian Football Confederation in the same year.
The team, coached by Guus Hiddink of the Netherlands, reached the round of 16 for the first time in their history. Samoan-born Tim Cahill was a key figure in the squad, scoring twice against Japan to lock the final score at 3-1 for the Socceroos and start the competition in a positive way. Their next match was a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Brazil before they clinched their place in the Round of 16 with a 2-2 against Croatia. The Socceroos campaign ended in dramatic fashion against eventual champions Italy, when Francesco Totti converted a penalty in the fifth minute of additional time.
FIFA World Cup™ South Africa 2010
Twenty-eight years after their first ever FIFA World Cup™ campaign concluded with three losses, the New Zealand All Whites were back on the world stage and claiming the title of the only unbeaten side at the 19th edition of the tournament.
They started their road to South Africa in 2008, winning the OFC Nations Cup and qualifying for the intercontinental play-off against AFC representatives Bahrain. The All Whites came back from Bahrain with a 0-0 draw and won the second game at a sell-out Westpac Stadium in Wellington 1-0 thanks to a Rory Fallon header in the 45th minute.
It was a roller coaster ride for New Zealand once they arrived in South Africa. A stoppage time goal to Winston Reid earned a 1-1 draw against Slovakia which was followed by an outstanding performance against four-time World Cup™ champions Italy.
Shane Smeltz scored just seven minutes into the match and while the All Whites held the lead for just a short time, with Vincenzo Iaquinta converting a penalty in the 29th minute, it remains one of the greatest football moments in New Zealand history. The Kiwis’ final match ended in a 0-0 draw against Paraguay, helping them secure their unbeaten record and a third place finish behind Paraguay and Slovakia, but more notably above Italy, in Group F.