Australia qualified for a fifth straight World Cup after a 5-4 penalty shootout win over Peru in their intercontinental playoff on Monday.
The teams failed to score in regulation and extra time at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, and goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne, sent on as a substitute in the dying seconds of extra time, proved to be the star for Australia by saving the last penalty from Alex Valera.
“I’m not a hero,” Redmayne said. “I just played my role like everyone else did tonight. I’m not going to take credit for this. The boys ran out there for 120 minutes. It’s a team effort.”
“Taking off established No. 1 Mat Ryan for Redmayne, who had made just two previous international appearances, was a big call from coach Graham Arnold. Redmayne’s unconventional dancing and jumping along the goal-line as the Peru players stepped up, however, worked.
“Andrew Redmayne is a very good penalty saver,” an emotional Arnold said. “Why are we making that change? To add that bit of uncertainty to their brains, get into the mental aspect of Peru. That’s the reason why.”
Australia qualified the hard way: Third behind Saudi Arabia and Japan in the final round of Asian qualifying and then defeating the United Arab Emirates in the Asian playoff last week.
“I’m just so proud of the players,” Arnold added. “Really, no one knows what these boys have been through to get here. It was so hard, the whole campaign. The way they’ve stuck at it. The way they’ve committed themselves to it incredible. Twenty World Cup qualifiers, 16 away from home. It’s been tough, but we did it.”
The dramatic end followed two hours of little action.
Australia finished regulation as the only team creating chances. Ajdin Hrustic, who scored the winning goal against the United Arab Emirates in the Asian playoff victory last week, had the first shot on target in the entire game after 82 minutes, and went close again shortly after.
Peru substitute Edison Flores headed against the foot of Australia’s post early in the second period of extra time, but that was as close as 12,000 Peruvian fans in the stadium came to celebrating a goal and as close as either team came to breaking the deadlock as the game drifted towards a shootout.
Pedro Gallese saved Martin Boyle’s opening spot kick. Australia drew level when Luis Advincula hit the post.
Redmayne, dancing along the goal-line, saved from Valera, and it was enough for the Socceroos to return to Qatar in November for their sixth overall World Cup appearance.
“This idea was floated pre-selection that this [shootout] might eventuate in these kinds of circumstances,” Redmayne said. “At the end of the day, it’s the flip of a coin. Either right or left.”
Australia will meet defending champion France in the opening game of Group D on Nov. 22, and also take on Tunisia and Denmark.
The final place at the World Cup will be filled in the same stadium on Tuesday when Costa Rica meets New Zealand.