For the first time in 32 years, Australia will participate in the World Cup -- soccer's premier tournament. Today (yesterday in Sydney) the Soccerroos beat Uruguay 1-0 to tie their home-and-home matchup at 1-1. Then the Soccerroos won the shootout 4-2 to earn a place at soccer's big dance.
Uruguayan players had called it G-d's will that Uruguay, a living-in-the-past two-time champion from WAY back in the day (1930, 1950; and currently just a high mid-level power), should win and play in the World Cup. Didn't happen, as the Aussies avenged their playoff loss from 2001, which landed Uruguay a spot in the South Korea/Japan World Cup of 2002.
Under the FIFA qualification system that awards bids based on the relative strength of each region, Australia is homeless: one spot of the 32 places in the tourney goes to the host, 13 spots go to Europe, 4 to Asia, 3 to North and Central America, including the Caribbean (CONCACAF), 4 to South America and 5 to Africa. The last two spots in 2006 go to the playoff winners of South America #5 v. Oceania #1 and CONCACAF #4 v. Asia #5. Australia romped through its regional soccer affiliation (Oceania) qualification process, and still had to fight for a spot.
Good to see our allies doing well in the most political of all sports.
Now if they can beat the Germans, I'd almost forgive them for their crash in 1997.
P.S. -- Congrats to Trinidad and Tobago too, it qualified for the World Cup for the first time ever and came from the US's region. For those of you not playing along at home, the US qualified last month.