Australian football came of age 10 years ago on a sweat-drenched night in Hanoi. It was the Socceroos first match as an 'Asian' nation – the exotic region was beckoning us into a new era – and we followed under the pretence that football down under could grow to bountiful new heights.
But we underestimated our opponents, and in 2007 Asia blooded us in with a brutal initiation. It was the type reserved for those seeking to become king.
A languid struggle against Oman – requiring a 92nd minute Tim Cahill equaliser – should have had alarm bells ringing, as the Socceroos made their Asian debut in almost calamitous circumstances.
We then fell apart in a 3-1 demolition against Iraq; the less said about that performance the better. The Socceroos somehow progressed, before a defensive error and a sending off saw us defeated by Japan in the quarter-finals.
As it is for so many overconfident youngsters, our first time was one to forget. But this Asian Cup was a tournament of precursors, letting us know what we could expect from the Socceroos subsequent decade in the Asian confederation.
Of course, now we’re undisputed Asian powerhouses – even if it’s still disputable that we’re Asian – but 10 years on, we’re still performing the same tricks.
Australia entered the 2007 Asian Cup with a sense of confidence that couldn’t match our organisation or ability. Ten years on, Tim Cahill still spares Australia’s blushes. Our largely European-based squad is still left lacklustre by balmy 35-degree nights in Bangkok.
We still struggle to score against defensive gulf nations, and we still get picked apart by the technical skill of Middle Eastern opponents. Most of all, we still show resolve against our fellow Asian heavyweights – Japan and South Korea.
After the 2006 World Cup, the Australian public warmly embraced the world-beating Socceroos, egging them on to bigger and better things. The 2007 Asian Cup put us back in our place.
But what happened to Graham Arnold’s battlers, the side that still looked hungover from 2006’s yearlong party? Here’s a look back at the team that promised so much, yet delivered so little, as we celebrate a decade of Aussie hits and misses in Asia.