Trivia question. Who scored Australia’s first ever goal at a World Cup? If you said Tim Cahill, the legendary Socceroos striker, you would be wrong.
The answer is Angela Iannotta, the pint-sized daughter of Italian immigrants, who was born in the small town of Myrtleford in the Alpine Shire, northeast of Victoria.
On 8 June 1995, in the Swedish town of Vasteras - in front of only 1,500 people - the Albury raised striker netted in the 25th minute of Australia’s second match of the 1995 World Cup against China. Iannotta had made history, not that she actually realised it at the time.
“I actually didn't know at that moment that I had scored Australia’s first ever goal at a World Cup,” she admits, 25 years later. “I only realised a few years later.
“I remember we were losing 1-0 against China. Back in the 90's, China were one of the strongest teams. I remember a missed pass from a Chinese defender, I took a forward touch and then kicked this great shot in the top corner. Unfortunately, we lost 4-2.”
Iannotta, affectionately called ‘wog-girl’ by a former team-mate, admits she looks back fondly at that 1995 World Cup campaign, insisting it was a pivotal moment for women’s football in Australia.
“I remember the excitement and adrenaline of being at the World Cup,” she recalls. “It was a wow factor. We were the future of women’s football in Austraĺia.”
Iannotta is widely regarded as one of Australia’s most talented footballers, despite a career interrupted by injury. She played 33 times for Australia, scoring 10 goals. She featured at the 1999 World Cup in the USA as well.
Iannotta played at the domestic level in Australia, Japan and her native Italy.
She famously became the first Australian woman to win an Italian League title. Playing alongside Italian legend Carolina Morace, Iannotta achieved the feat with ACF Agliana in 1994/95.
Iannotta has resided in Italy since 1992, but still remembers her Australian roots, admitting she would like to come home one day and give back to the country she represented with such distinction on the field.
“I've lived in Italy for most of the last 28 years, but one day I'd like to come back to Albury and coach. I haven't coached for 10 years because of my work.”
If she came back to Australia, Iannotta would fit right in, with her other passion away from football very much a part of Australian life.
“I'm into triathlons and half iron-woman. My second love in life. If I didn't play football I'd probably get into triathlon, but I'm happy I played the game I love.”
Despite living abroad for so long, Iannotta still keeps an eye on Australian football, admitting she has enjoyed seeing the rise of the women’s game down-under.
She does feel though there is more work to be done to help women’s football grow and keep moving forward.
“The Matildas have come a long way and I see a great future for women’s football in Austraĺia,” she insists. “I just think they need to have a women’s professional winter league. We are losing top Australian players to foreign leagues.”
Despite not actually playing at the elite level for over 20 years, Iannotta admits her passion for football and her memories still burn strong.
“I loved everything about the game....the skill, the running, scoring goals, even getting fouled,” she laughs. “I was so fast that I was often knocked to the ground.
“I enjoyed even arguing with the opposition players. I just loved being on the field. It's just a beautiful game."