Jim Rooney: Why first FIFA World Cup 1974 match is one of Australia's greatest results ever

Former Socceroos midfielder Jim Rooney believes Australia’s first ever FIFA World Cup fixture should be remembered as one of the best results in our nation’s rich footballing history.

The history books may recall how on 14th June 1974, Rale Rasic’s team were defeated 2-0 by East Germany, but the result only tells a fraction of the story.

Ahead of the game, the German media did not exactly roll out the red carpet for the Socceroos.

After all, they were a squad packed with part-time footballers and blue-collar workers who had somehow earned the right to rub shoulders with the world’s best.

To make matters worse, Australia were missing a handful of key players from their qualification squad including star striker Ray Baartz and first-choice goalkeeper Jim Fraser.

One local newspaper infamously wrote, "Why have we got these kangaroos at the World Cup?”

So while Australia were mooted as the whipping boys of 1974, their opening result well and truly defied expectations.


A valiant defensive effort saw Rasic’s side shut out the East Germans for almost an hour until an unfortunate Col Curran own goal finally broke the deadlock.

Their opposition then added another through a venomous Joachim Streich ten minutes later which ensured Australia’s first taste of World Cup action would end in defeat.

However despite the scoreline, the Socceroos’ heroic efforts went a long way towards winning over the home support.

One newspaper even penned an apology for their pre-tournament coverage.

Jim Rooney believes a fierce underdog mentality is what allowed the Socceroos to go toe to toe with their highly fancied opposition.

“I reckon that 2-0 defeat was one of the best results by any Australian soccer team,” he said.

Australia Socceroos East Germany 1974 FIFA World Cup
Socceroos captain Peter Wilson (L) shakes hands with East Germany's captain before the game

“When we went on the park there was no fear, it was just excitement.

“You couldn’t wait to get the ball but at the same time they were one of the best teams in the world and we were out there just to enjoy ourselves and try and win.

“We faced a big hurdle but at the same time when you look at the results in history it wasn’t too bad at all.”

The East Germans would go on to famously defeat West Germany in their group stage encounter, making them the only team to topple the hosts on their charge to the World Cup trophy.

This only reinforces Rooney’s belief that Australia’s debut on the world stage should be celebrated as a gallant showing against one of the strongest squads in world football at the time.

READ: Stats Insider: Socceroos' first ever FIFA World Cup match in 1974

Socceroos Australia East Germany 1974 FIFA World Cup
The 1974 Socceroos line up before kick-off