Australia’s men’s national soccer team clinched qualifying for the World Cup on Nov. 15, 2017, after a 3-1 victory over Honduras at Sydney’s Stadium Australia completed a two-legged playoff win. That victory finally put an end to the longest qualifying process any country has ever endured in earning a place at a World Cup in more ways than one.
The Socceroos’ journey started on June 16, 2015, in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, where they played well in a 2-1 win over the hosts. They also traveled to Tajikistan, Jordan and Bangladesh during that round of qualifying. Even longer flights awaited in the next round as they then headed to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Iran and Japan.
That’s where qualification would have ended, after 18 matches, had Australia finished in first or second place in its six-team group. However, a third-place showing resulted in four more matches being necessary. A relatively short trip to Malaysia followed, where Australia faced Syria. However, the longest journey was saved for last, to Honduras for the first of its playoff games with the Central American country.
In total, the Aussies played 22 matches and traveled more than 150,000 miles, more than six times around the equator. And another long trip is the prize that they won, a coveted journey to Russia for the 2018 World Cup.
It should be noted that Australia moved from the Oceania region, where it played with the likes of New Zealand, Tonga and Papua New Guinea, to Asia in 2006, a move that dramatically increased both the number of matches it would take the island country to qualify for the World Cup and how much travel would need to be endured to get it done. However, the team had never traveled quite this much until now.