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Guus Hiddink reveals the incredible mischievous tricks he played on Uruguay before the 2006 World Cup play-off against Australia

Guus Hiddink Australia
(Image credit: Future)

Guus Hiddink has been talking to FFT about his time as Australia national manager – and the dirty tricks he played to get the Socceroos to the World Cup.

Speaking in the new issue of FourFourTwo, the legendary Dutchman recalled his time managing the outsiders, of how he told Mark Viduka that they wouldn't qualify for the 2006 tournament unless he lost weight and the "natural fighting spirit" that his group possessed. 

When asked about the play-off against Uruguay that Australia had to win to secure passage to Germany, however, Hiddink revelled in levelling the playing field for his "barbecue boys" with a series of "dirty" tactics.

"After we qualified for the play-off, the first thing I asked my backroom staff was whether they could provide me with information on their previous experience of playing Uruguay [in the qualifiers for 2002]," Hiddink revealed.

"It seemed there was a detailed report about it, and one thing I noticed was how our players had been really drained and held up on several occasions in Montevideo, where they’d been preparing for five days. For example, they couldn’t get onto the training pitch as the gate key had suddenly gone. Or they were kept awake in the hotel until 4am. It meant that on the fifth day, the players were exhausted. They had also arrived from Australia on different scheduled flights, which didn’t help. So, I made sure we got a chartered flight via our airline sponsor. 

"Initially I was told it was too expensive, but I said, 'You want to go to the World Cup, right?' We travelled on this huge aircraft with all kinds of equipment. I also told the board that I wanted the training camp to be in Buenos Aires, a 20-minute flight away from Montevideo, meaning we flew to Uruguay only a day before the match.

Australia

(Image credit: Getty)

"During the game, the Uruguayans didn’t play too dirty – but don’t forget that Australians can take a knock and dish them out as well! We lost 1-0 but we had the best possible recovery for the second leg, as I arranged for us to fly back immediately after the match. 

"The Uruguayan federation requested to join us but I said, 'That’ll be difficult, as we’re completely full.' I’d heard that they held up flights for the Australians in 2002, so I asked my organiser if he could book up all flights from Uruguay to Australia, then cancel them just before. It meant players from Uruguay probably had to travel separately, so they’d arrive slightly groggy. 

"I’m not entirely proud of it, but we did it. They got a taste of their own medicine! You wouldn’t do it otherwise. It was a very exciting night. Uruguay had a really good team and in the first half had chances to score, but didn’t – we went through on penalties."

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Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. Over his time on the brand, he has interviewed the likes of Aaron Ramsdale and Jack Wilshere, written pieces ranging on subjects from Bobby Robson's season at Barcelona to Robinho's career, and has been to the FA Cup and League Cup finals, working for FFT