Australia’s dream of qualifying to a fifth straight FIFA World Cup came to reality on Monday night after the Socceroos saw off Peru on penalties in the AFC-CONMEBOL inter-confederation play-off match in Al-Rayyan, Qatar.
Awer Mabil scored Australia’s winning penalty while substitute Andrew Redymane was on top-form in the shootout as Graham Arnold’s men survived a testing challenge from Peru and prevented their South American opposition from reaching a second-consecutive World Cup – interestingly the two nations had met in the previous edition of the tournament back in 2018, with Peru winning 2-0 in the group stages.
Both teams were unable to break the deadlock after 120 minutes, with Australia coming close through Jackson Irvine, Ajdin Hrustic, and Martin Boyle, while Peru had Gianluca Lapadula and Edison Flores as their main goal-scoring threats.
Prior to the shootout, Arnold subbed off Mathew Ryan in favor of Sydney FC goalie Redmayne, who only made his third international cap in the match.
Things didn’t start off ideally for Australia, with Peruvian goalkeeper Pedro Gallese managing to thwart Boyle’s effort while Lapadula managed to get the better of Redmayne.
Aaron Mooy restored parity for Australia soon after, however Alexander Callens managed to regain the lead for Peru, before Craig Goodwin slammed home his side’s equalizer. Luis Advincula then narrowly missed his penalty, thus providing Australia with the advantage.
Socceroos players Hrustic and Jamie Maclaren managed to land their penalties, however so were Peru’s Renato Tapia and Flores, meaning that the scoreline was 4-4 when Mabil stepped up to take his penalty.
Born at a Sudanese refugee camp in Kenya and resettling in Australia back in 2006, Kasimpasa winger Mabil capped off an inspirational journey from hardship to glory with a confident penalty that went beyond the reaches of Gallese, giving Australia the all-important lead.
And after that, the onus was on Redmayne to thwart Peru’s next effort.
As Alex Valera placed the ball onto the spot, Redmayne knew what he had to do. His body dancing from side-to-side, Redmayne taunted Valera as the young striker prepared to take his shot, his gestures clearly getting into Valera’s head.
Valera took the shot and Redmayne expertly went to the right, blocking the incoming penalty with his body and effectively sealing Australia’s place in the World Cup.
The Socceroos may have a tough group waiting for them come December – they were drawn with reigning world champions France, European upstarts Denmark, and African powerhouses Tunisia – but for now, the men in yellow-and-green can afford to celebrate. Australia are once again going to the World Cup.