1982 FIFA World Cup Spain™

1982 FIFA World Cup Spain™

13 June - 11 July

1982 FIFA World Cup™

Kiwi joy, Aussie pain on the road to Spain

 New Zealand's Stephen Wooddin
© Getty Images

If the 1982 FIFA World Cup Spain™ qualifying campaign holds a momentous place in the annals of New Zealand football, it has an equally ignominious status for antipodean rivals Australia.

In May 1981, Australia held high hopes of repeating their FIFA World Cup qualification feat of some eight years earlier, while fierce adversaries New Zealand had similar aspirations but perhaps less lofty expectations. FIFA.com takes a closer look at a key game from that campaign, which has a place in record books of the two nations for very different reasons.

The summary

Australia 0-2 New Zealand

16 May 1981, Sydney Cricket Ground (Australia)Scorers: Steve Wooddin 29, Grant Turner 81

Australia: Greg Woodhouse, Alan Davidson, John Yzendoorn, Steve Henderson, Steve Blair, Jim Tansey, Billy Rogers (Gary Cole 46), Murray Barnes, Eddie Krncevic (Ken Boden 64), Mark Jankovics, Peter Sharne.
Coach - Rudi Gutendorf

New Zealand: Richard Wilson, John Hill, Ricki Herbert, Robert Almond, Glen Dods, Duncan Cole, Steve Sumner, Keith McKay (Samuel Malcolmson), Grant Turner, Brian Turner (Clive Campbell 85), Steve Wooddin.
Coach - John Adshead

The stakes

Australian fans attending the Sydney Cricket Ground on that late autumn day did so with genuine cause for optimism. The home side had enjoyed the the upper hand in a 3-3 draw a few weeks earlier in Auckland, with the New Zealanders forced to rely on a Steve Sumner equaliser ten minutes from time. The Socceroos were well-prepared, having spent a significant amount of time in camp under much-travelled German coach Rudi Gutendorf, which contrasted with the Kiwis moderate preparations.

The two teams were expected to battle it out for top spot in the five-team group, which also consisted of Indonesia, Chinese Taipei and Fiji, with the right to progress to the second and final stage of qualifying the prize for the victor. As if the white-hot heat of a World Cup qualifier was not enough, extra spice was added to the contest with Australia-New Zealand sporting relationships at an all-time low after an infamous cricket match some months earlier.

The story

A tight contest ensued on the bumpy surface of Sydney's main cricket arena, but the hosts suddenly found their Spain 1982 hopes hanging by a thread when Steve Wooddin grabbed the opener. Wooddin's goal was a trademark strike, with his minimal backlift barely allowing Australian goalkeeper Greg Woodhouse time to move before the ball bulged the net.

Gutendorf threw on prolific strikers Gary Cole and Ken Boden, but ultimately it only allowed Grant Turner the space to score a late sealer with an impressive header. When well-known English referee George Courtney blew the fulltime whistle, it may have effectively signalled the end of the Australians' campaign, but it gave the New Zealanders a new-found level of self-belief that was prove integral in their subsequent success.

The star

Combative midfielder Turner proved a shining light in the victory with his header described by team-mate Sumner as "the best headed goal I've ever seen". Only 22 at the time of his crucial goal, the Gisborne City youngster was to sadly miss out on taking the field in Spain due to a foot injury sustained just prior to the tournament.

They said
"If (coach) John Adshead asked the players to go out and die for him, not one of them would hesitate."
New Zealand's Adrian Elrick.

"I can't understand how we could play this way - like amateurs against a professional team."
Australia coach Rudi Gutendorf.

What happened next

The upset effectively ended Australia's campaign and they ultimately finished four points behind New Zealand in the group. The defeat also prompted Gutendorf to resign from his post immediately, with the result deemed a disaster by the local press. To provide more context, the loss was to prove Australia's only defeat at home for 27 years across 36 World Cup qualifiers until China PR beat the Socceroos in June 2008.

New Zealand went on to reach Spain 1982 in epic fashion, setting several records en route. The Kiwis could claim to have played more matches than other nation to reach a World Cup at that time.

In the next stage of qualifying, New Zealand finished behind Kuwait, ahead of Saudi Arabia, but level with China on goal difference to set up an epic play-off against the world's most populous nation in neutral Singapore, where a teenage Wynton Rufer netted a spectacular winner. The New Zealanders made their World Cup debut at Spain 1982, where, drawn into a tough group, they lost 5-2 to Scotland, 3-0 to USSR and 4-0 to Brazil.

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