|Tuesday, 29 July 2008 21:12|
....taken from "The Socceroos and their Opponents" by Laurie Schwab
The first major international competition in which the Socceroos competed was the 1956 Olympic Games tournament in Melbourne. This was a precursor to future World Cup campaigns, and they bombed out, just as they bombed out in 1965.
In 1956, as in 1965, inexperience at international level was the reason for Australia's failure. Reporting on Australia's exit from the 1956 Olympic Series, Alex Barr wrote in The Age:
"The original squad was not the best and four weeks of intensive training did nothing to improve the standard. Australian soccer has lost a wonderful chance to gain world prominence and the game has suffered a body blow:'
Nevertheless the 1956 Olympic series is still remembered as the most important soccer event contested by the pre-Federation Socceroos, whose first full internationals were three games against New Zealand in 1922 (1-3 in Dunedin. 1-1 in Wellington and 1-3 in Auckland).
The 1956 experiment was seen as the start of a commitment by Australian soccer to the Olympic Games. However, as a result of the breakaway from the Australian Soccer Association, amateur bodies lost their affiliation with State and Australian Olympic authorities.
It was not until 1975 that the Australian Soccer Federation considered returning to the Olympic movement. State federations began applying to join their State Olympic councils, to comply with the regulation that at least four States must be members of these councils before the ASF is accepted to the Australian Olympic Federation.
Plans were made to play against Papua New Guinea on April 30, 1975, to qualify for a further tournament against North Korea, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Malaysia. Singapore, Thailand and India which comprised the Asian elimination group at the time.
But problems started to crop up. There was doubt about whether Australia's top players would qualify as amateurs under Olympic rules. When FIFA officials assured the ASF that it could field the senior Socceroos in the Olympics another problem cropped up.
Apparently the State federations, especially NSW, were opposed to losing their top players for four weeks in July, 1976, were Australia to qualify for the Olympic Games in Montreal: The States were concerned that their domestic competitions could be disrupted every two years - for Olympics and World Cups alternately.
Thus, the 1975 Olympic pains were shelved.
Australia's first Olympic match was against Japan at Olympic Park on November 27, 1956, before a crowd of only 3.568 at Melbourne's Olympic Park.
AUSTRALIA: Lord; Bignall, Pettigrew, Arthur. A. Warren, Sander; Morrow, Loughran, Lennard, McMillan, Smith.
JAPAN: Furukawa; Takabayashi, Hiraki, Omura, Ozawa, Sato, Tokita, Uchino, Yaegashi, Kobayashi, Iwabuchi.
Japan showed more finesse than Australia but the rugged, hard-hitting Socceroo defenders slowed Japan down and prevented it from capitalising on intricate play, especially in front of goal. Australia scored in the 26th minute when McMillan netted from a penalty awarded against Takabayashi for handling. Australia had had the ball in the net earlier, but referee Lund of New Zealand ruled that two players were offside.
At half time Australia was starting to wilt and for a short time it seemed Japan could get on top. But Frankie Loughran, moved from the inside right position to the right wing, netted a second goal to give Australia a 2-0 victory.
Only once had Australia's goal seemed in real danger but Ron Lord, always safe, made a daredevil leap to the feet of Yaegashi: swept the ball off his toe and cleared upfield.
Australia's second opponent, before a crowd of 12,000 at Olympic Park on December 1, 1956, was India.
There was an argument before the game about whether the Indian team could play barefooted. High ranking officials could not agree whether a rule concerning World Cup soccer affected the Olympic Games. English soccer boss Sir Stanley Rous said: "There is nothing in the rule book that says a player must wear boots. When English sides play teams which normally play without boots, we play them that way."
But India agreed to play with boots, on the understanding that if anyone suffered from cramp it would be in order to remove the boots. Never troubled by Australia, the Indians with one exception, continued in full dress for the whole game and won 4-2. Inside right S. Bannersee got cramp in the closing stages and removed his boots but the damage had been done and he had to leave the field shortly afterwards.
Australia's performance was woeful, wild, indiscriminate kicking - invariably to an opponent - ruined the Socceroos' chances. It had been expected in vain that after seeing ground-level soccer from class teams like Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and the USSR, the Australians would have made some attempt to copy it. India seized control when D'Souza scored the first goal.
Although Australia equalised and the interval was reached at 2-2 after two goals by Newcastle's Bruce Morrow, the end was inevitable. Despite being subjected to heavy tackles, the Indians were yards faster and showed ball control that was completely absent from Australia's play.
D'Souza, scorer of India's first goal, finished the match with a hat-trick, with the fourth goal coming from Kittu.
AUSTRALIA: Lord; Bignall, Pettigrew; Arthur, A.Warren, Sander; Loughran, Lennard, Morrow, McMillan, Smith.
INDIA: Thangaras; Azis. Rahaman; Kempial, Salaam, Ncar; P. K. Banersee, S. Banersee, D'Souza, Kittu, Kannayan.
India went on to qualify for the play-off for third place but was beaten 3-0 by Bulgaria, while the USSR beat Yugoslavia 1-0 in the final.
On its way to triumph, the USSR beat Bulgaria 2-1 although it was reduced to 10 men for the second half after right back Tichenko received a severe arm injury. In a shock result, the USSR was also held to a scoreless draw by Indonesia but won the replay 2-0.
In a sensational sidelight to the Olympic soccer tournament, police had to break up an impromptu march by 80 British naval ratings at half-time of the game between Great Britain-Ireland and Bulgaria.
Acting on the spur of the moment, the sailors had vaulted the fence and marched about 150 yards down the arena in a vain effort to inspire more fight in the outclassed British team. They not only "showed the flag" three large Union Jacks - but carried noisy ratchet rattles, a calico sign reading "Up the Lions" and an umbrella with the stripes England's colors.
The sailors, from the HMS Newcastle, which was in port, marched in orderly fashion for two or three minutes before being escorted from the ground by police. At half time Bulgaria led Britain by three goals to one. Bulgaria was even more dominant in the second half, and surged to an easy 6-1 victory.
Details of finals matches:
OLYMPIC FINAL at Melbourne Cricket Ground, December 8, 1956, crowd 102,000.
Soviet Union: Yashin; Kouznetsov, Qgognikov; Masljonkin, Bachachkin, Netto; Tatouchine, Issaev, Simonian. Salnivkov, IJjin.
Yugoslavia: Randenkovic; Koscak. Radovic; Santek, Spajic. Krstic; Sekularac, Papec, Antic. Veselinovic. Mujic.
SEMI-FINAL at Melbourne Cricket at Ground, December 5, 1956, crowd 42,000:
Soviet Union: Yashin; Tichenko, Ogagnikov; Paramonav, Bachachkin. Netto; Tatouchine. Ivanov, SlreltSOY, Salnikov, Ryjkine.
Bulgaria: Naydenov; Raharov, Nikolov; Stefanov, Manolov, Kovacer; Stojanov, Mikolov, Panajolov, Kolev, Yaney.
SEMI-FINAL at Melbourne Cricket Ground, December 4, 1956, crowd 25,269:
Yugoslavla: Vidinic; Kosiak. Bipgradllc; Santek. Spajic, Krstic; Mujic. Papec. Antic, Veselinovic, Uposinovic.
India: Narayan; Rahaman, Lateef; Kampiah, Salaam, Ncor; P. K. Banersee, Nundy, D'Souza, Kittu, Balaran.
PLAY-OFF FOR THIRD PLACE, Melbourne Cricket Ground, December 7, 1956, crowd 25,000.
Bulgaria : Yordanov; ,Rakarov, Kovalcev; Stefanov: Manolov, Stojanov; \ Slojanov, Milolov, Panajolov, Kolev, Diev.
India: Narayan; Azis. Lateef; Kampish, Noor. Ahmed; Kannayan, D'Souza, Pal, Nundy, Kittu.