SYDNEY (Reuters) - Rale Rasic, the Yugoslavian-born coach who led Australia to their first World Cup finals campaign in 1974, has died aged 87, Football Australia said on Thursday.
Rasic arrived in Australia in 1962 and was named coach of the Socceroos at the age of 34 in 1970, leading the team on an unbeaten run of 12 matches and ultimately to qualification for the World Cup in West Germany.
In the finals, the mostly amateur Australians failed to score a goal in losses to both East and West Germany and a draw with Chile, finishing bottom of their group.
Rasic was sacked after the tournament and Australia would not qualify again until the World Cup returned to a reunified Germany in 2006.
"Rale changed the game in Australia in 1974, qualifying Australia for the first World Cup ever," current Australia coach Graham Arnold said in a news release.
"The amount of passion and love that Rale had for football has never drifted too far away from myself and he has been a great inspiration for me over the years.
"He was such a great man, he loved a chat, and loved a story, and he always kept those stories going and that motivated a lot of people in life."
Rasic was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1989.
The Socceroos will wear black armbands in memory of Rasic when they take on world champions Argentina in a Beijing friendly next week, Football Australia said.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford)