John Aloisi and the goal that stopped a nation
THE moment John Aloisi ripped off his Soccerooos jersey and waved it wildly around a packed ANZ Stadium after putting his country into its first World Cup in 32 years is one of the most enduring images in Australian sport.
Eliminating two-time world champion Uruguay, thanks to Aloisi's penalty kick, earning a place at Germany 2006 ranks as one of Australia's greatest sporting achievements.
And so does that amazing 3-1 win over Japan in the Socceroos' first pool match in Kaiserslautern - Australia's first World Cup victory and a game in which Aloisi also scored right at the death.
The 39-year-old carved out an outstanding 20-year career in Belgium, Italy, England, Spain and the A-League, and scored 27 goals in 55 appearances for the Socceroos.
Now coaching Brisbane Roar, Aloisi rarely reflects on those two occasions he helped Australian football enjoy its long-awaited moment in the sun.
"I don't mind talking about it, though, because it was not only special for me, but it was special for everyone who had been involved in football for a long period of time," he told ARM in the lead-up to the 10-year anniversary of that famous goal against Uruguay, on November 16, 2005.
"It was 32 years since we had been back to a World Cup, and I think that meant so much to everyone.
"And to hear people talking about where they were and what they were doing, and how they were feeling in that penalty shoot-out, or during the World Cup and their experience - it's enjoyable to talk about."
The Socceroos' coach at that time, during what many consider to be Australia's "golden" period of football, was legendary Dutchman Guus Hiddink.
Hiddink helped transform Australian football with his relentless preparation and approach on the training pitch, qualities that Aloisi has applied in his coaching role at the Roar.
But while Aloisi is known as a gentleman and a "people person", he said Hiddink liked to maintain a distant, almost mysterious aura.
"Guus wouldn't speak to the players away from the pitch, and even on the pitch he would be very demanding and straight to the point," Aloisi said.
"That worked for him - I've got great respect for him for what he achieved as a coach and what he achieved with us.
"You learn off every coach, but you have to be true to yourself and your own character."
One other coach who had a big impact on Aloisi was former England and Premier League manager Terry Venables.
Venables took over the Socceroos in November 1996 and went 16 games undefeated in 1997 - including a 0-0 draw with Brazil in the Confederations Cup - with a team that included stars such as Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka, Mark Bosnich, Robbie Slater and Aloisi.
But the team missed qualifying for the 1998 World Cup, knocked out when Iran scored two late goals at the MCG.
While the 2005 win over Uruguay remains one of our greatest moments, that loss to Iran is often referred to as the most tragic moment in Australian football history.
Despite that disappointment, Aloisi said he learnt plenty from Venables.
"Terry was a great man manager. You could have a one-on-one conversation with him - not just about football, but about life in general," he said.
"He was very smart and a very tactical coach - at the time we hadn't experienced anyone like that."
Aloisi always had a fierce belief in his own ability as a player, right from the time he made his professional debut at just 15 with Adelaide City in the old National Soccer League.
That belief served him well in a difficult coaching stint with Melbourne Heart from 2010, during which he could only come up with eight wins and seven draws from 39 games.
When he was sacked, then-Heart chairman Peter Sidwell admitted the club had "blood on its hands", for throwing Aloisi into the furnace as a young coach without the financial backing to chase big-name players.
But the old saying "don't get bitter, get better" was something Aloisi lived by after being dumped by the Heart.
And for an out-of-work football coach, it doesn't get any better than spending time with Spanish giants Barcelona.
He was granted direct access to the technical department at Camp Nou and the club's state-of-the-art training fields by Barca assistant coach Juan Carlos Unzue, a close friend of Aloisi's from their playing days at Osasuna in Spain.
Aloisi also spent time as the Melbourne Victory's development coach of its National Youth League and National Premier League sides.
And he polished his media skills working as a commentator.
So it is no wonder Aloisi now believes he is a well-rounded coach, ready to restore the Roar to the glory days when the club was crowned A-League champions in 2011, 2012 and 2014.
"Having spent a year or a year-and-a-half away, and then working with younger boys at the Melbourne Victory, spending time at big clubs in Europe I've grown as a coach and I really believe in the way I want things done," he said.
"I learnt a lot at the Melbourne Heart.
"It was a great apprenticeship for me. It was a difficult time, but I learnt a lot of things not only on the pitch in terms of tactics, but also off the pitch that I didn't have control over.
"I made sure when I came to the Brisbane Roar I had control over those things.
"I feel like I'm a more rounded coach, and I've got confidence in what we're doing."