The first Australia national team was constituted in 1922 for a tour of New Zealand. During the tour, Australia suffered two defeats and scraped a draw. For the next 36 years, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa became regular opponents in tour (exhibition) matches. During that period, Australia also competed against Canada and India during their tours of Australia in 1924 and 1938 respectively. Australia had a rare opportunity to compete on the world's stage during the team's very first major international tournament as hosts of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. However, an inexperienced squad proved to be reason for the team's disappointing performance. With the advent of cheap air travel, Australia began to diversify its range of opponents. However, its geographical isolation continued to play a role in its destiny for the next 30 years.
After failing to qualify for the FIFA World Cup in 1966 and 1970, losing in play-offs to North Korea and Israel respectively, Australia finally appeared at their very first World Cup in West Germany, 1974. After managing only a draw from Chile and losses from East Germany and West Germany, the team which was made up of mostly amateur players was eliminated at the end of the first round, finishing last in their group without scoring a goal. It would prove to be the only appearance for the Australian team until the World Cup tournament returned to Germany more than three decades later in 2006. Over that 32-year period, as well as the eight years prior, the Australian team was known for its near misses in its attempts to qualify for the World Cup; they lost play-offs in 1966 (to North Korea), 1970 (to Israel), 1986 (to Scotland), 1994 (to Argentina), and most notably in 1998 against Iran and 2002 against Uruguay.
The team's previously poor record in World Cup competition was not reflected in their reasonable performances against strong European and South American sides. In 1988, Australia defeated reigning world champions Argentina 4–1 in the Australian Bicentennial Gold Cup. In 1997, Australia drew with reigning world champions Brazil 0–0 in the group stage and then defeated Uruguay 1–0 in the semi-finals to reach the 1997 FIFA Confederations Cup Final. In 2001, after a victory against reigning world champions France in the group stage, Australia finished the 2001 FIFA Confederations Cup in third place after defeating Brazil 1–0 in the third-place decider.
In early 2005, it was reported that Football Federation Australia had entered into discussions to join the Asian Football Confederation and end an almost 40-year association with the Oceania Football Confederation. Many commentators and fans, most notably soccer broadcaster and former Australian captain Johnny Warren, felt that the only way for Australia to progress was to abandon Oceania. On 13 March, the AFC executive committee made a unanimous decision to invite Australia to join the AFC. After the OFC executive committee unanimously endorsed Australia's proposed move, FIFA approved the move on 30 June 2005. Australia joined Asia, with the move taking effect on 1 January 2006, though until then, Australia had to compete for a 2006 FIFA World Cup position as an OFC member country.
After a successful campaign, the team took the first steps towards qualification for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. After coach Frank Farina stood down from the position after Australia's dismal performance at the 2005 Confederations Cup, Guus Hiddink was announced as the new national coach. Australia, ranked 49th, would then have to play the 18th ranked Uruguay in a rematch of the 2001 qualification play-off for a spot in the 2006 World Cup. After a successful friendly match against Jamaica (Australia's biggest high-profile win: 5–0), the first leg of the play-off tournament was lost (1–0), with the return leg still to be played in Australia four days later in Sydney on 16 November 2005.
The second leg of the qualifying play-off was played in front of a crowd of 82,698 at Stadium Australia. Australia led Uruguay 1–0 after 90 minutes following a goal by Mark Bresciano in the first half. The aggregate was tied, and extra time was played. Neither team scored after two periods of extra time, bringing the game to a penalty shootout. Australia won the penalty shootout (4–2), making Australia the first ever team to qualify for a World Cup via a penalty shootout. Australian goalkeeperMark Schwarzer made two saves, with John Aloisi scoring the winning penalty for a place in the World Cup, Australia's first qualification in 32 years.
Australia went into the 2006 World Cup as the second lowest-ranked side. Although their ranking vastly improved in subsequent months after a series of exhibition matches against high profile teams, including a 1–1 draw against the Netherlands, and a 1–0 win at the sold out 100,000 capacity Melbourne Cricket Ground against the then European ChampionsGreece.
For the 2006 World Cup, Australia was placed into Group F, along with Japan, Croatia and defending champions Brazil. In their opening group game, Australia defeated Japan 3–1, with Tim Cahill scoring two goals (84', 89') and John Aloisi scoring one (90+2') in the last eight minutes. Their goals made history, being the first ever scored by Australia's men's soccer team in a World Cup, as well as all three goals being scored in the last seven minutes of the game, which was never before done in a World Cup match. Australia met Brazil in their second group game, which Australia lost to Brazil 2–0. Australia faced Croatia in their third match. The final score (2–2) was enough to see Australia proceed to the knockout stage, where they were eliminated from the competition after a 1–0 defeat by the eventual champions Italy after conceding a controversial penalty in the 93rd minute. The loss marked the official end of Hiddink's tenure as Australia's national coach. The success achieved at the 2006 World Cup later saw the team named AFC National Team of the Year, as well as being dubbed the "golden generation" in the history of the Socceroos.
Led by coach Graham Arnold, Australia went to their first Asian Cup in 2007, sending a strong squad which included 15 players from the previous year's World Cup team. A ring of satisfying matches in Group A against Oman (1–1 draw), Thailand (4–0 win) and Iraq (3–1 loss) assured Australia's progression to the quarter final stage of the tournament. Though after drawing 1–1 with Japan after extra time, Australia exited the tournament on penalties at the quarter final stage. An international friendly on 11 September 2007 against Argentina (1–0 loss) was Graham Arnold's last game as head coach, with the position eventually being filled by Pim Verbeek on 6 December 2007.
Australia were drawn into Group D in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which featured three-time world champion Germany, Ghana and Serbia. On 14 June 2010, Australia faced Germany. Pim Verbeek's surprising decision to play without a recognised striker saw Australia comprehensively defeated 4–0. Verbeek received heavy criticism for his tactics, with SBS (Australia's World Cup broadcaster) chief soccer analyst Craig Foster calling for his immediate sacking. Australia's second group match against Ghana resulted in a draw of 1–1, and their third and final group match against Serbia resulted in a 2–1 win. Ultimately Australia's heavy loss to Germany saw them eliminated in group stage. Pim Verbeek completed his term as Australian coach at the end of the 2010 World Cup and was soon replaced by Holger Osieck.
Shortly after achieving qualification to the World Cup, Australia played a series of friendly matches against Brazil and France, suffering consecutive 6–0 defeats. This along with previous poor performances during the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign resulted in manager Holger Osieck's sacking, bringing his four-year tenure as Australia's manager to an end.
After a two-week search for a new manager, Ange Postecoglou was eventually appointed in the position. Postecoglou was tasked with regenerating the Australian national team, which was deemed to have been too reliant on members of their Golden Generation of 2006, subsequently leading to a stagnation of results, culminating in successive 6–0 defeats to Brazil and France. In his first game as Australia's manager, a home friendly match against Costa Rica, Australia won 1–0, courtesy of a goal from Tim Cahill.
For the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Australia were drawn in Group B alongside reigning Cup holders Spain, 2010 runners-up Netherlands and Chile. Their first match was off to a lacklustre start, having conceded two goals in the opening 15 minutes from Alexis Sanchez and Jorge Valdivia. Despite a goal from Tim Cahill that inspired a late resurgence from Postecoglou's team, they ultimately lost to South America's Chile, 3–1. Their second match against the Netherlands was a close one, but their efforts ended in a 3–2 loss, thus earning their early exit along with the Spanish team. Australian fans praised the team for their outstanding efforts in a tough group. In the end, Australia finished Group B with a third, consecutive defeat to former world champions Spain, 3–0. Australia's competitive World Cup performances in a difficult group lead to belief that a new Golden Generation was about to begin.
In their first international match proceeding the World Cup, Australia played World Cup quarter-finalists Belgium in Liège, with Australia going down 2–0. Four days later, Australia achieved their first international win in 10 months, and just their second win under Ange Postecoglou, with a 3–2 victory of Saudi Arabia in London. After drawing against the United Arab Emirates, and suffering successive losses against Qatar and Japan, combined with previous poor results earlier in the year, saw Australia slip to 94 and 102 in the FIFA World Rankings, their lowest ever ranking.
The new year saw Australia host the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, with the team making their third consecutive appearance in the tournament. Australia won their first two group matches against Kuwait and Oman comfortably, with scorelines of 4–1 and 4–0 respectively. This guaranteed their qualification for the knockout stage, despite losing their final group match against South Korea in Brisbane 1–0. They faced China in the quarter-finals and won 2–0, courtesy of a second-half brace from Tim Cahill. In the semi-finals, Australia won 2–0 over United Arab Emirates and advanced to the final for the second time in row. They faced South Korea in the final on 31 January at Stadium Australia, winning 2–1 after extra time to claim their first Asian title and qualify for the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup.
Following the Asian Cup Victory the team travelled to Europe for friendly matches, drawing 2–2 with defending World Champions Germany and 0–0 with Macedonia.
They began the qualifying group with an away match against Kyrgyzstan in Bishkek, where they achieved a 2–1 win. In their first home match of the campaign they beat Bangladesh 5–0 at nib Stadium, with almost 19.5 thousand fans coming to watch. After that they played against Tajikistan in Dushanbe, winning comfortably 3–0 with Tim Cahill scoring a brace. They blotted their perfect record with a loss 2–0 to Jordan.
Australian matches have been broadcast by free-to-air network SBS and subscription sports network Fox Sports, with the national team having set multiple ratings records for both television networks. Australia's final 2006 World Cup qualifying match against Uruguay was the highest rating program in SBS history with an audience of 3.4 million viewers, while a 2010 World Cup qualifying match against Uzbekistan set a record for the highest subscription television audience, with an average of 431,000 viewers. The 2015 Asian Cup Final against South Korea had a total reach of 5.3 million Australians overall.
Australia's traditional kit is a yellow jersey, accompanied by green shorts, the national colours of Australia which are associated with most of the country's national sporting teams. The colour of the socks has altered throughout the 1970s, 1980 and 1990s from white to the same green as the shorts to the same yellow colour as the jersey. Their current away kit is a dark blue jersey accompanied by dark blue shorts and socks. Australia's kits have been produced by manufacturers including Umbro, Adidas, KingRoo (from 1990 until 1993), Adidas again (from 1994 until January 2004) and recently Nike (since February 2004).
Rather than displaying the logo of Football Federation Australia, Australia's jersey traditionally features the coat of arms of Australia over the left breast. Australia's first national kit, worn in 1922, was an exception to the traditional green and yellow, where the team wore a sky blue jersey with white shorts and sky blue socks with maroon cuffs. The look was copied from the Australian national rugby league team's strips of the period. The team first wore the traditional green and yellow colours in 1924. Australia's 1974 FIFA World Cup kits were produced by Adidas as were all other national team kits in the tournament, with Adidas sponsoring the event. Though the kits contained Umbro branding, due to the manufacturer's Australian partnership at the time. Nike renewed the kit manufacturer deal with FFA for another 11 years in 2012, handing them the rights to make national team kits until 2022. In the lead up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup the new kits to be worn by the team were revealed. The design of the new kits included a plain yellow shirt with a green collar, plain dark green shorts and white socks, a tribute to the 1974 Socceroos. Inside the back of the neck also had woven the quote, "We Socceroos can do the impossible", from Peter Wilson, the captain of the 1974 Australian team.
Australia's long time rivals are trans-Tasman neighbours New Zealand. The two teams' history dates back to 1922, where they first met in both their international debuts. The rivalry between the Socceroos and the All Whites (New Zealand) is part of a wider friendly rivalry between the neighbours Australia and New Zealand, which applies not only to sport but to the culture of the two countries. The rivalry was intensified when Australia and New Zealand were both members of the OFC, regularly competing in OFC Nations Cup finals and in FIFA World Cup qualifications, where only one team from the OFC progressed to the World Cup. Since Australia left the OFC to join the AFC in 2006, competition between the two teams has been less frequent. However, the rivalry between the two teams is still strong, with the occasional match receiving much media and public attention.
After joining the AFC, Australia began to develop a fierce rivalry with fellow Asian powerhouse Japan. The rivalry began at the 2006 FIFA World Cup where the two countries were grouped together. The rivalry continued with the two countries meeting regularly in various AFC competitions.
The main supporter group of the Australian national team is Socceroos Active Support (SAS). SAS was founded in January 2015 as an independent group, who uses social media to organise and keep in touch. This replaced the former active support group Terrace Australis, who were founded by the FFA and fans in 2013, during Australia's 2014 World Cup qualification campaign. Its establishment came in the wake of poor off-field action and minimal community engagement. Previously, the emergence of Terrace Australis saw the Green and Gold Army relinquish its role as a hub for active support, which it had claimed since its establishment in 2001.
The following 23 players were called up for the World Cup Qualifiers against Kyrgyzstan on 12 November 2015 and Bangladesh on 17 November 2015. Caps and goals correct as of 17 November 2015 after the game against Bangladesh.
Mark Schwarzer holds the record for most Australia appearances with 109. He is the only Australia player to have reached 100 caps. Lucas Neill is second with 96 caps and Brett Emerton is next having played 95 times. Alex Tobin played 'A' Internationals for Australia 87 times and is the fourth most capped player.
Tim Cahill holds the title of Australia's highest goalscorer. He has scored a record 45 goals since his first appearance for Australia in March 2004; during which time he has played for Australia on 88 occasions. Damian Mori (29 goals) and Archie Thompson (28 goals) complete the top three.