Remarkably, the team failed to qualify for the 1998 FIFA World Cup despite not losing a game was Australia. Granted a bye into the second round of qualifying, alongside New Zealand, Fiji and Tahiti, by virtue of being one of the four highest-ranked teams in the Oceania Football Confederation, the Socceroos were drawn in Group 1, with Tahiti and the Solomon Islands, who advanced to the second round playoff.
Australia won all four group matches, beating the Solomon Islands 13-0 at home and 6-2 away and Tahiti 5-0 at home at 2-0 away, to advance to the third, and final, round of qualifying with a maximum 12 points and a goal difference of +24. In that final round, they faced New Zealand, but were similarly untroubled by the All Whites, winning 3-0 at the Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland and 2-0 at the Sydney Football Stadium in the return leg just over week later.
That 5-0 aggregate win earned the Socceroos a two-legged intercontinental playoff against Iran, who had lost 3-2 to Japan, after extra time, in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). With a place in the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals in Russia at stake, both legs were characterised by huge attendances, an estimated 128,000 for the first leg at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran on November 22, 1997 and a record 85,000 for the second leg at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) a week later.
Following a 1-1 draw in Tehran, thanks in no small part to goalkeeper Mark Bosnich, Australia led 1-0 at half-time in Melbourne and 2-0 shortly afterward, when Aurelio Vidmar volleyed in a rebound off the crossbar. However, late goals from Karim Bagheri and Khodadad Azizi made the score 2-2 on the night, and 3-3 on aggregate, such that it was Iran who progressed to the World Cup finals on away goals.