The A-League may have kicked off in August 2005, but five years ago to this day was the one on which it truly announced its arrival on an Australian sporting sphere monopolised by Aussie rules, cricket, rugby league and rugby union.
Australia’s heroic showing at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™ - competing at the tournament for just the second time and first in 32 years, the Socceroos had progressed from a group comprising Brazil, Croatia and Japan, before being eliminated by eventual champions Italy courtesy of an 11th-hour Francesco Totti penalty in the Round of 16 – had left football’s popularity at an all-time high Down Under.
The A-League had signed a megabucks deal with broadcasting giants Fox Sports ahead of the 2006/07 campaign, but a beguiling Grand Final between Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United wouldn’t just attract armchair spectators. For within 80 minutes of tickets becoming available for purchase, all 55,000-plus of them had sold out.
Those watching at the Telstra Dome and on television screens across Australia were treated to six goals – or subjected to them in the case of the Adelaide fans. Their hangman was Archie Thompson. The New Zealand-born striker had scored an international-record 13 goals for Australia in a 31-0 mauling of American Samoa in 2001, and he was in the mood for another spree in Victoria.
A Thompson double had put Ernie Merrick’s men 2-0 up before the half-hour and, after United captain Ross Aloisi was sent off, the Victory No10 added another three goals to inspire a 6-0 thrashing. It remains the joint-second-biggest win in A-League history, while no other player has scored more than four goals in a single game.
18 February 2007 undoubtedly belonged to Melbourne Victory and Archie Thompson, but it also belonged to the A-League, which proved that it was here to stay.