Australia's Top 5 World Cup Moments

Dan Colasimone@@ArgentinaFWContributor IJune 4, 2014

Australia's Top 5 World Cup Moments

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    DANIEL MAURER/Associated Press

    Australian sporting teams pride themselves on their fighting spirit and never-say-die attitude, and the Socceroos are no exception.

    Relative minnows on the world stage, Australia's national football team have nonetheless managed to qualify for four World Cups (including the upcoming tournament in Brazil), and once there they have turned in some truly memorable backs-to-the wall performances.

    Here are five moments that made Australians proud, and the rest of the world sit up and take notice.

5. Aussies Earn Respect Against Chile in 1974

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    Associated Press

    Legendary coach Rale Rasic guided Australia to the World Cup finals for the first time in 1974.

    The Socceroos faced a trial by fire in West Germany, where they had to face the hosts, East Germany and Chile in the group stage.

    The side, filled with amateurs who only played the game on a part-time basis, were expected to be completely overwhelmed by their illustrious opponents.

    Although they lost their first two games to the powerful German teams, they showed they were good enough to warrant a place in the tournament with solid performances which surprised many.

    In the final group game, against Chile, Australia fought out a gritty 0-0 draw to ensure that even though they went home without having scored a goal, they did so with their heads held high.

4. Heartbreak Against Italy in 2006 Proves Australia Are the Real Deal

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    After battling their way out of a tough group, Australia won the chance to face the might of Italy in the first knockout stage of the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

    Many sides would have been overwhelmed by the task at hand, but the Socceroos played as though they had nothing to fear and nothing to lose.

    The Australians enjoyed large swathes of possession against Marcello Lippi's Azzurri, and even though they were struggling to break down a determined defence, they would have fancied their chances in extra time.

    Italy were down to 10 men, after having had Marco Materazzi sent off, and Guus Hiddink still had all his substitutes in reserve as the game entered the final minute of injury time.

    The Aussies would never get the chance to attempt to crack open the future world champions, however, as Fabio Grosso cut into the box from the left and toppled over a prone Lucas Neill to win a controversial penalty.

    Francesco Totti stepped up and coolly converted to send Italy through.

    Australia may have lost the game, but it is still one of the most talked about World Cup moments down under.

Cahill Nabs First Ever World Cup Goal Against Japan in 2006

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    KEVORK DJANSEZIAN/Associated Press

    Drawn with Brazil, Croatia and Japan in a tough Group F in 2006, Australia were expected to slug it out with the latter two for second spot and a place in the round of 16.

    That meant that the first encounter, against regional rivals Japan, was of massive importance as far as qualification was concerned.

    A 26th-minute Shunsuke Nakamura goal had given the Japanese a precious lead which the Socceroos were unable to respond to despite their best efforts; until the arrival of super-sub Tim Cahill.

    In the 84th minute, Lucas Neill sent a long throw into the Japanese box, where goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi made a meal of his attempt to collect the ball. Harry Kewell scuffed his attempted shot, but Cahill was on hand to bury the chance.

    The man who would one day become Australia's all-time leading goalscorer had gifted his country its first ever World Cup goal.

Kewell's Croatia Heroics

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    In their third and final group fixture in 2006, Australia needed a draw to progress to the next round at the expense of their opponents, Croatia.

    In what was one of the most thrilling matches of the Germany World Cup, Croatia took the lead thanks to a Darijo Srna free-kick, before Australia pegged them back through a Craig Moore penalty.

    Zeljko Kalac then gifted the Croats the lead again, allowing a tame long-distance effort from Nico Kovac to bobble through his hands and into the net. 

    Australia's most gifted player, Harry Kewell, would prove the hero, however, as he latched onto a John Aloisi flick from a Mark Bresciano cross, and he buried his chance (from what was probably a slightly offside position) to give the Socceroos the point they needed to send them through.

Cahill's Goes from Saviour to Legend Against Japan

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    Four minutes after his dramatic 84th minute goal to draw Australia level, Cahill would make an even bigger contribution to his side's cause.

    A draw would have barely been a satisfactory result for the Socceroos, with games against Brazil and Croatia coming up.

    The then-Everton man made qualification for the knockout stage a far more likely proposition when he collected the ball on the edge of the D and sent a curling attempt cracking against both posts and into the net. 

    John Aloisi would finish the job to make it 3-1, but it was Cahill who had dragged his team to victory in sensational style.