Australia qualified for a fifth straight World Cup after a 5-4 penalty shootout win over Peru in their intercontinental playoff on Monday.
The teams failed to score in regulation and extra time at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, and goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne, sent on as a substitute for captain Mat Ryan in the dying seconds of extra time, proved to be the star for Australia by saving the last penalty from Alex Valera.
“I’m not a hero,” Redmayne said. “I just played my role like everyone else did tonight. I’m not going to take credit for this.”
Taking off established No. 1 Ryan for Redmayne, who had made just two previous international appearances, was a major gamble from Socceroos coach Graham Arnold.
Redmayne’s unconventional dancing and jumping along the goal-line with his aims and legs flailing as the Peru players stepped up, however, worked.
“Andrew Redmayne is a very good penalty saver,” an emotional Arnold said in a post-match TV interview, explaining that he made the change to put a “bit of uncertainty into their brains, get into the mental aspect of Peru.”
Australia qualified the hard way in a campaign played mostly away because of travel restrictions in place for the COVID-19 pandemic, finishing third behind Saudi Arabia and Japan in their group in the last round of qualifying and then beating United Arab Emirates in the Asian playoff last week.
“I’m just so proud of the players,” Arnold said. “Really, no one knows what these boys have been through to get here. It was so hard, the whole campaign. The way they’ve stuck at it. The way they’ve committed themselves to it…incredible. Twenty World Cup qualifiers, 16 away from home. It’s been tough, but we did it.”
The dramatic end followed two hours of little action.
Australia finished regulation as the only team creating chances. Ajdin Hrustic, who scored the winning goal against the United Arab Emirates in the Asian playoff, had the first shot on target after 82 minutes, and went close again shortly after.
Peru substitute Edison Flores headed against the foot of Australia’s post early in the second period of extra time, but that was as close as 12,000 Peruvian fans in the stadium came to celebrate a goal and as close as either team went to breaking the deadlock.
“This is a very hard moment,” Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese said. “I had the dream of seeing our flag once again in the World Cup.
“I am still proud of this team. Now we have to give them support, some teammates are really struggling now.
“Australia did its part and deserved it.”
The game drifted towards a shootout, where Gallese saved Martin Boyle’s opening spot kick. Australia drew level when Luis Advincula hit the post.
Redmayne, with his distracting dance routine along the goal-line, saved from Valera, and the Socceroos clinched a spot in Qatar in November for their sixth overall World Cup appearance.
“This idea was floated pre-selection that this (shootout) might eventuate in these kinds of circumstances,” Redmayne said of his contentious selection.
Australia will meet defending champion France in the opening game of Group D on Nov. 22, and take on Tunisia and Denmark.
The final place at the World Cup will be filled in the same stadium on Tuesday when Costa Rica meets New Zealand.