Eight years on from their historic first victory at the World Cup finals Socceroo Legend John Aloisi shares with the PFA what that day was like in Kaiserslautern, why they knew they would win, and why the current Socceroos can defy the odds in Brazil.For most it seemed like despair. This was the match that was vital to their chances of progression out of the group. In the 26th minute those chances appeared to take a serious hit as Japan went ahead in the opening match of the 2006 World Cup.

For those on the pitch it was a different matter. “We were still confident, the team was playing well,” John Aloisi says of the moment Japan took the lead. “When we were one nil down we were like we are not going to lose this game.”

The confidence came from the grueling sessions undertaken by the squad in the lead-up to the tournament. Long intense double training sessions were the rule not the exception as they endeavored to be at their absolute best. “It was the toughest three or four weeks of training I have ever been a part of but you were willing to go through anything because you know you are playing at the World Cup.”

As Aloisi and Tim Cahill, both amongst the substitutes against Japan, warmed-up the belief that they would change the game when they came on was strong. “We had been talking as we warmed-up saying we are going to come on and win this game, we are going to make the difference.”

Within 15 minutes  of coming on Cahill had done just that leveling scores. Five minutes later the then Everton man had scored again to give the Socceroos the lead. Three minutes later Aloisi ensured victory making it 3-1 and handing the Socceroos their first ever victory at the World Cup finals.

“We had worked on this scenario in training as well,” Aloisi said of the preparation in the build-up to the Japan match. “We used to do a lot of 11 v 11 and there would be long periods were it was 0-0 and then Guus (Hiddink) would make a couple of changes to the starting 11 and we would start knocking long balls into the box. He would say if we needed to change gears to try to win a game we can, so the subs were pre-planned. We knew when we came on what our jobs were and knew we could make a difference.

“In training we would make those subs and score goals and we would be saying ‘why don’t we start like this’ and I think he (Guus) had the idea of starting like it. He knew the Japanese might struggle with that more physical approach and aerial threat but he also knew if it didn’t work what could we turn back to? His thinking was ‘if they dealt with it well where do we go from here.’”

Of his goal it is obvious instantly how much it meant to the former Osasuna striker. “As a kid you dreamt of playing in a World Cup, and being a striker scoring in the World Cup, and that day in general was a dream come true to be playing and be involved in the first Australian side to win a World Cup game and the way we did it you could not write that script.”

As the full-time whistle went it would spark jubilant celebrations both on the pitch and in the stands. The build-up had focused heavily on the Japan game being the key to victory, something that the players were certainly aware of. “Our lead-up was everything about Japan, we knew we had to beat them to have any chance of going through.”

The players would enjoy the celebrations both in the dressing sheds and hotel afterwards but it would take little time for Hiddink to ensure their feet were firmly planted back on the ground.

“I will never forget the next day and what Guus said to Tim (Cahill). ‘Timmy you scored two goals but you also let your player go when it was 1-1 and he could have scored.’ So he brought Tim and the rest of us back down to earth and then we were focused on preparing to face Brazil and we thought we could beat them.”

The Socceroos would of course go on to make history qualifying for the knockout stages after a narrow defeat to the then World Champions, Brazil, and then drawing with Croatia.

For Aloisi the key to success was their belief and is something that he believes will be the essential for the current Socceroos as they prepare to face Chile, Netherlands, and the reigning World and European Champions Spain.

Whilst many have written off the Socceroos chances against such opponents Aloisi is not amongst them.

“I think they will surprise Chile, Chile will be expecting to win. The longer the game goes and we are still in it Chile will be nervous and it is a big game for them and they could start to get anxious.

“They need to stick to the game style and attack Chile’s weaknesses. They play a very high line and I know Ange has been working on ways to exploit that. They have nothing to lose it is a different sort of pressure then what we had when we faced Japan.”

On Saturday morning (AEST) another chapter in the history of Australian football will be written. Here’s to another taleof defying the odds.