Flashback Friday: Socceroos turn England green and gold at Upton Park

There’s nothing Australian fans love more than getting one over England in any sport, but especially football.

While the nations haven’t played all that often in recent years – just three times in the last 30 years – one of those matches stands out from the others for Socceroos fans.

February 12, 2003 saw Frank Farina’s Socceroos take on a star-studded England side at West Ham’s home ground Upton Park.

Sven Goran-Eriksson picked a star-studded starting line-up which included the likes of David Beckham, Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Paul Scholes and Michael Owen.

Socceroos Starting XI: Mark Schwarzer; Lucas Neill, Craig Moore, Tony Popovic, Stan Lazaridis; Brett Emerton, Paul Okon, Josip Skoko, Scott Chipperfield; Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell
Substitutes: Mark Bresciano, John Aloisi, Tony Vidmar, Vince Grella, Mile Sterjovski, Kevin Muscat


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But the Socceroos squad – many of which plied their trade in the Premier League - weren’t overawed and put on a performance which made headlines around the world.

One of those EPL-based players was central defender Tony Popovic, who gave Australia a dream start inside 17 minutes.

Stan Lazaridis swung in a sensational cross from the right, with Crystal Palace defender Popovic rising above Gary Neville to bury his header past David James.

Tony Popovic celebrates after opening the scoring at Upton Park
Tony Popovic celebrates after opening the scoring at Upton Park

It was just what the Socceroos had deserved for their confident start, with Harry Kewell and Lazaridis causing havoc.

And Kewell - who had been denied a couple of times by James already - doubled Australia’s lead just before the break, outmuscling Ferdinand on the edge of the box before rounding James and sweeping it home to send the healthy contingent of Aussie fans into raptures.

Despite the shock scoreline, Eriksson stayed true to his word of making 11 changes at the break, bringing on the likes of Jermaine Jenas, Darius Vassell and a 17-year-old Wayne Rooney for his senior debut.

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England couldn't contain the speed and skill of Harry Kewell
England couldn't contain the speed and skill of Harry Kewell

England’s batch of youngsters put up more of a fight in the second half and pulled a goal back on 67 minutes.

Jenas was the creator, whipping in a cross from the right with Francis Jeffers’ glancing header too good for Mark Schwarzer.

But that was as good as it got for the Three Lions.

Just six minutes from time the Socceroos iced the result, as substitute John Aloisi sent Feyenoord flyer Brett Emerton through and he coolly completed the job.

While it will go down as one of the Socceroos’ most cherished football memories, England’s tabloids were merciless after the match, with headlines like “Kanga Poo! England dumped on by Aussies” and “Shockeroo” in the papers the following day.

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