Former Socceroo Luke Wilkshire called it a “massive decision”, and they don’t come much bigger than a late goalkeeper change ahead of a must-win penalty shootout.
Graham Arnold had been under plenty of pressure heading into Australia’s World Cup Qatar 2022 Intercontinental Play-off against Peru.
And he certainly did not shy away from putting himself in the firing line when he made a late switch, putting Sydney gloveman Andrew Redmayne in for captain Mat Ryan.
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It paid off, with Redmayne making the match-winning save in the shoot-out. His wild dancing and distracting tactics almost certainly also played a role in Peru’s other unsuccessful penalty, which struck the post and bounced out.
It was a secret plan hatched more than a month in advance – and Redmayne revealed that no-other player, not even the teammate he replaced, knew.
Redmayne said after the game: “The idea of stopping a penalty was floated at least a month ago I dare say. (Keeper coach) John Crawley threw out the theory behind it and said: ‘get ready for that’. It was always in the back of my head for the UAE game and for this game it was kind of planned I guess, between myself and the staff.
“I don’t think any of the players knew about it,” he said, but “I think a few of them clocked on at halftime” when Redmayne did some warm-up drills.
“It was a plan that was floated a month, six weeks ago. I probably didn’t think it would end this way. The longer the camp went on the more I was comfortable,” Redmayne added.
But there was one problem: as the Socceroos practiced their penalty routines in camp, Redmayne was handed the task of emulating the rival keepers. And no rival dances along the goal line like the Sydney star!
“The whole time in training I wasn’t able to dance around at all… I wasn’t allowed to move around or intimidate our boys because it would be unrealistic (compared to) what they were facing.”
Though he stated that Ryan was unaware of the plan – “Maty didn’t know,” – Redmayne revealed the Socceroos first-choice gloveman was fully supportive. The pair embraced warmly in the final miunte of extra time when Ryan was pulled from the field.
According to Redmayne, Ryan said “’All the best mate, this is your time’. Even at full time when we were in the huddle he said: ‘You’ve got this mate, it’s all you’. He was nothing but supportive.”
Redmayne also revealed that he was threatened with a yellow card by the referee during the tense shoot-out.
“I think he was a bit bemused by my antics as well, I guess he was trying to keep in me check. He threatened a yellow card a couple of times for trying to provoke players, I said I wasn’t trying to do that…If I could gain one or two percent by doing something stupid and making a fool of myself, I was going to do it.”
HOW IT PLAYED OUT
“It is an interesting decision what Maty Ryan has done throughout the campaign, in the Asian Cup he saved two against Uzbekistan,” Mark Milligan said on Channel 10’s coverage.
“But, you know, Arnie made this call and that is probably the main reason Redmayne has been in the squad.”
“Look, he has made a massive, massive decision, we will see in the penalties whether it has paid dividends,” Wilkshire added.
“It is a brave call. That is why he is in charge to make the big decisions. Again to get to this point, I think we should have won in normal time. We weren’t clinical enough.”
Redmayne certainly had an unorthodox approach in the box, dancing around in scenes that cut a complete contrast to the tense atmosphere at Al Rayyan Stadium.
It even more tense for Australian fans when Martin Boyle fired it to the left but Pedro Gallese anticipated it brilliantly to come up with a crucial save.
“The perfect start for Peru. The nightmare beginning for Australia,” Simon Hill said in commentary for Channel 10.
It looked as if Peru was destined for the World Cup while Australia seemed to resigned to heartbreak but then Luis Advíncula hit the post with his attempt.
It left the penalty shootout on a knife’s edge once more.
Arnold would live or die by the sword and in stunning scenes, the gamble paid off as Redmayne sent Australia to the World Cup with a superb save on Alex Valera’s attempt.
“It is all on this for Peru. Valera. And Redmayne makes the save,” Hill said in commentary.
“It is a save that means the world to Australia. It is a save that means the World Cup for Australia. Joy unbridled for Graham Arnold, for his players, they are going to the World Cup in Qatar. No one gave them much of a chance. But never, ever write off the Socceroos.
“A fifth consecutive World Cup as the jeers for Graham Arnold turn to cheers. Peru vanquished. Bring on the world in November and you have to say on balance tonight, they deserve it. It was tight, it was tense, there are tears for Peru. And tears of joy for Graham Arnold and Australia.
“And his decision to bring on Andrew Redmayne at the end is vindicated. Extraordinary scenes in Doha. Well done, Australia.”
Milligan was “lost for words” post-game, paying tribute to Arnold’s bold call.
“The character shown, the performance put in, I’m delighted for Arnold,” he said.
“The criticism he has copped. The brave decision he made putting Redmayne on. We questioned it. Everyone would have questioned it. But it got us over the line and full credit to him.”
Redmayne refused to take credit despite his heroics.
“Yeah, I’m a bit lost for words. I can’t thank the team enough, the staff enough,” he said post game.
“ You know, I’m not going to take credit. The boys ran out 120 minutes, and it not only takes 11 on the field but the boys on the bench, the boys in the stands. The boys that missed out in their squad as well. It is a team effort, team game, so I can’t take any more credit then any of the boys.
Redmaybe revealed his role had been discussed and planned in the lead up to the game.
“This idea was floated pre-selection that this might happen in these kind of circumstances. I have had that in my mind, and I’ve been working on a few things in training, but at the end of the day, it is either right or left, the homework has been done and I’m just grateful to the other boys for running at 120 minutes.
“I’m no hero. I just played my role like everyone else did tonight. Not even the 11 on the pitch, it was much more than that, it is a team effort.”