Australian football has a new entry in its folklore and in Andrew Redmayne, the Socceroos goalkeeper, a new icon.
After 120 minutes could not separate Graham Arnold’s side and Peru, qualification for the World Cup in Qatar came down to one moment in the crucible of a penalty shootout: Redmayne on the goalline and Alex Valera at the spot. All Australia needed was for the Universitario forward’s effort to go anywhere except the back of the net. Redmayne made sure it did not.
The images of his expression in the aftermath, mouth agape in one of the widest grins seen on a football pitch as his teammates sprinted off the halfway line to join him in the celebrations, will perhaps prove even more famous than the save itself. Just as John Aloisi losing his shirt as he wheeled away in celebration has been played over and over as the years have gone by, the Redmayne smile will live on.
Australian football has its own Tim Krul moment. Just as Louis van Gaal did at the 2014 World Cup when he brought on his back-up goalkeeper for Jasper Cillessen in the dying stages of extra-time against Costa Rica, Arnold rolled the dice in bringing his third-choice keeper on for Mat Ryan just minutes prior to the shootout against Peru.
It was a bold decision, one that had the potential to backfire spectacularly. The line between madness and genius is a thin one, frequently separated by little more than results and the whims of fate. Had it gone wrong, Arnold’s tenure would have consigned to greater depths of infamy than had he lost by sticking with Ryan – who had been between the sticks in the Socceroos’ last triumphant shootout.
But history will now validate the move. Just as his hijinks set the scene for Sydney FC to win the 2019-20 A-League Men grand final against Perth Glory, Redmayne came up trumps again. He danced along the goalline and theatrically waved his arms around – penalty-saving tactics that have earned him the nickname “the gray Wiggle” – before diving down to his right and getting a hand to Valera’s low effort.
The save sparked wild scenes at Al Rayyan Stadium and completed a journey for Redmayne that has seen him nurtured by Arnold during his time at Sydney and molded into one of the ALM’s finest goalkeepers, before the same coach brought him into the national setup.
If Tuesday morning’s contest were a boxing match, the Socceroos arguably would have won on points. There was nothing particularly innovative or exciting about their build-up – there were a lot of long balls down the channels and hit-and-hopes for the battering ram that is Mitch Duke – but Peru showed very little. They was nothing like the side that had reached the semi-finals of the Copa America in 2019 and the semis in 2021. Nor were there signs of the team that had stormed into a Conmebol playoff spot over the likes of Chile and Colombia.
It took until a set piece in the 81st minute for Ajdin Hrustic to deliver the game’s first shot on target, but Australia had been able to create the more threatening forays forward by the time the 90 concluded. Pouncing on second balls, Duke flashed shots wide early and moments after Hrustic’s effort Aziz Behich skipped past a series of defenders and flashed a shot just wide. Be it due to fear, poor preparation or the defensive discipline of their foes – or more likely a combination – Peru were playing the game on the Socceroos’ terms, and Arnold’s side was winning with experience.
Yet still, there was an inevitable sense of Australian fear. Trepidation that somehow the Peruvians would lift and find a way or that the next Edison Flores extra-time header would not hit the post and instead find the back of the net. Fear that Martin Boyle’s miss with the Socceroos opening penalty would kickstart a trend and prove terminal, or that Australian luck would run out and hopes that had been raised would be dashed.
But they were not. Arnold’s gamble paid off and the Socceroos are headed for a fifth straight World Cup.