Australian football has a new entry in folklore and in Andrew Redmayne, the Australian national team goalkeeper, a new icon.
After 120 minutes unable to differentiate between Graham-Arnold’s side and Peru, qualification for the World Cup in Qatar ended for a moment in the crucible of penalty shootouts: Redmayne on target and Alex Valera on the spot. All Australia needed was for the Universitario striker to go anywhere except at the back of the net. Redmayne made sure it didn’t happen.
His expression pictured in the aftermath, his mouth in one of the widest smiles seen on the football field as his teammates ran out of the center line to join him in the festivities, perhaps more famously than saving himself. Just as John Alois lost his shirt as he pulled away in celebration, played over and over as the years went by, Redmayne’s smile will live on.
Australian football has its own Tim Kroll moment. Just as Louis van Gaal did at the 2014 World Cup when he brought in a reserve goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen in the final stages of extra time against Costa Rica, Arnold threw a dice in choosing his third goalkeeper for Matt Ryan. Just minutes before the penalty shootout against Peru.
It was a bold decision, one that could have backfired spectacularly. The line between madness and genius is a fine line, often separated by little more than results and the whims of fate. Had things gone wrong, Arnold’s tenure would have resulted in a deeper shame than he lost by sticking with Ryan – who was between the sticks in the winning final penalty shootout for Socceroos.
But history will now prove this step. Just as his quick moves set the scene for Sydney FC’s 2019-20 Men’s Division I Final win against Perth Glory, Redmayne won again. He danced along the goal line and waved his arms theatrically – the penalty save tactics that earned him the nickname “The Gray Wobbler” – before diving to his right and assisting on Valera’s low effort.
The rescue sparked wild scenes at Al Rayyan Stadium and completed a ride for Redmayne that Arnold sponsored during his time in Sydney and was molded into one of ALM’s top goalkeepers, before the same coach put him in the national setup.
If Tuesday morning’s match had been a boxing match, the Australian team would have been said to have won the match on points. There was nothing particularly innovative or exciting about their buildup, plenty of long balls down the channels and a hit and hope for the battered ram that is Mitch Duke, but Peru showed very little – nothing like a side that reached the 2019 Copa America semi-finals and the role Semi-finals in 2021. There was no indication that the team would break into a play-off in CONMEBOL against teams such as Chile and Colombia.
However, there was an inescapable sense of fear. Fear that the Peruvians will somehow lift and find a way or that Edison Flores’ next header in overtime will not hit the post and instead find the back of the net. The fear that Martin Boyle misses Australia’s opening penalty will start the trend and prove to be a final, or the Australian luck will run out and the hopes raised will be dashed.
But they weren’t. Arnold’s gamble pays off and the soccer team heads to the World Cup for the fifth time in a row.