On a balmy spring evening in November of 2005, John Aloisi’s famous penalty propelled the Socceroos into their first World Cup in 32 years.
The sight of Aloisi tearing his shirt off and sprinting across the Olympic Stadium turf in front of 83,000 screaming fans and millions more on TV, is one of Australian sport's most iconic moments.
While that magical night is still celebrated by Australian football fans, many would struggle to remember that 11 years prior in the more humble surroundings of Port Moresby, Australia’s other national football team - the Matildas - had their own transcending moment.
Australia hadn’t qualified for the inaugural 1991 Women’s World Cup, so the 1994 Oceania Confederations Cup took on great significance. The Matildas would fight it out with old foes New Zealand and hosts Papua New Guinea for one coveted spot at the 1995 World Cup, which was to take place in Sweden.
“I remember the tournament being played in Papua New Guinea which made it even more special,” recalls former Matildas midfielder Alison Forman, who starred in that qualifying campaign. “It is not everyday you travel to such a country, it was truly exciting.
“I was excited and pumped to represent Australia as I was each and every time I pulled on the Australian jersey, nothing made me feel more proud.
“We were unaware of how it was going to be in Papua New Guinea - the fields, the food etc. but that is normal when you are on the road.
“We were ready for the tournament and ready to qualify for the World Cup, that was our goal and what we focused on at that time.”
The tournament was a round-robin event, with each country playing each other twice in a seven-day period, with the top team qualifying for Sweden.
Things didn’t start well for the Matildas, a 2-1 loss in the opening game on 14 October against the ‘Football Ferns’ thanks to a double from Wendy Sharpe, made things challenging. Forman scored Australia’s only goal.
A few days later the Matildas made amends with a 7-0 drubbing of Papua New Guinea. A double each from Karly Pumpa and Cheryl Salisbury along with goals from Lisa Casagrande, Sunni Hughes and Forman ensured the Matildas were back on track.
Forman only scored seven goals in her 77 game international career, but two came in that qualifying campaign.
In between Australia’s first two games, the New Zealanders beat Papua New Guinea 2-0. Though they won, the closeness of the result would prove costly later on for the Football Ferns.
The clutch game came two days after Australia’s win over Papua New Guinea. The Matildas had to beat New Zealand to stay alive. A winner from star midfielder Julie Murray in the 38th minute, the only goal of the game, put Australia in the box seat to go to Sweden.
“Muzza was always up for the big games and could net goals when needed most,” recalls Forman fondly. “I remember the celebrations, it was a good time.”
Such was football at the time, the Matildas had little time to celebrate. They played the hosts again the very next day, and while they went into the game as hot favourites, it was crucial they scored as many goals as they could with goal difference being the final tiebreaker.
The Matildas delivered the goods thanks to Salisbury, Hughes, Casagrande and an own goal. The 4-0 victory over Papua New Guinea set New Zealand the difficult task of needing to win by nine goals or more against the hosts the following day, to take top spot and a World Cup birth.
The Matildas watched and waited with bated breath as New Zealand could only win 6-0, meaning Australia qualified for their first-ever World Cup thanks to a superior goal differential of three goals. It was also the Matildas first ever major international trophy.
While the moment was not quite as spectacular as the Aloisi strike, the celebrations and pride were just as special for the Australian players.
Today 6 June marks 25 years since the Matildas played their first-ever World Cup game against Denmark in Sweden. A 5-0 loss in Vasteras wasn’t the best way to begin, but it was an important starting point.
“It was amazing to qualify for the World Cup in 1995,” says Forman, who coincidentally now lives in Denmark. “Amazing and breathtaking, we were heading to the World Cup in Sweden, you cannot beat that as a footballer!”
The Matildas have qualified for every World Cup since, but it all started in that magical week in Port Moresby.