The torment of 1997 and Iran
By STEVE SPINKS
EIGHT years ago, almost to the day, Craig Foster remembers bitterly how close he came to playing in a soccer World Cup.
The year was 1997 and Australia needed to beat Iran to make the World Cup finals the following year.
After amazingly coming away with a 1-all draw from the intimidating atmosphere of Teheran, the Socceroos headed to Melbourne full of confidence.
A packed MCG cheered on as Australia burst to a 2-0 lead.
Surely it was in the bag, with less than 20 minutes left.
But in one of the most amazing 'chokes' in Australian sport, Iran miraculously equalised in the final minutes to advance (their two away goals counting double).
"The older you get the more you realise what you've actually missed out on," Foster reflected.
"Basically we were 15 minutes from making a World Cup.
"What a difference it is to be 36 and watching someone else trying to do it.
"It really brings home what's on the line."
Foster laments the mistakes the Socceroos made in Melbourne and subsequently in Uruguay four years later.
"Hiddink (Guus, the Australian coach) keeps saying it's the details that make the difference," he said.
"And that's so right.
"We made mistakes against Iran and Uruguay and missed out. I just hope that these guys are the generation that can get us through."
Foster will be commentating on SBS during the match on Sunday morning.