Socceroos players have urged Australian football powers to ensure a historic World Cup campaign doesn’t go to waste.
Graham Arnold’s team matched the feat of the 2006 ‘golden generation’ by reaching the Round of 16 but achieved unprecedented success with two victories in the group stage, before bowing out bravely to Argentina.
Hoping their performance will inspire a new generation of football talent, players believe there is now a golden opportunity to give the game a much-needed shot in the arm after some tough years.
“What we’ve done right now, it should be a no-brainer,” veteran Socceroos star Aziz Behich said.
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“We’ve accomplished something with this group that no other Socceroos team has.
“We’ve kept clean sheets, we’ve scored in every game in a World Cup, got out of the group stage on equal points on top, and we only lost to France and Argentina.
“Us as players, on our side, we’ve done our part.”
Behich said when it came to capitalising and growing the game “that bit is out of our hands”
“Those people know who they are, but this should be a massive stepping stone for football in Australia to go forward,” he said.
“I can’t see why it shouldn’t. I’m hoping we’ve inspired the next generation to coming through that’s it’s possible to match the best in the world, even being Australian.
“Obviously it puts the A-League on the map, we had a fair few boys from the A-League, this is the perfect moment for Australian football to step forward and make sure the sport gets more recognised back home.”
Despite the success of his team Arnold voiced his concerns during the tournament about the game’s future, repeatedly pointing to the comparative lack of investment in youth development and the risks of falling behind other leading nations in Asia.
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The sentiment was echoed by Craig Goodwin, one of several A-League-based stars who flourished for Australia in Qatar.
“We hope that we’ve inspired that young generation to push themselves,” Goodwin said.
“We hope that what we’ve achieved here can help grow the game back home because the A-League is better than it’s perceived. The quality of Australian football is better than it’s perceived.
“I think it’s been that way for a long time, but hopefully what we’ve been able to achieve here can put Australian football on the map and help the game grow..”
Goodwin said continued success by the national team would be crucial going forward.
“But it also comes from the grassroots of Australian football,” he said.
“The more we can do and the better we can build to train and coach the young players to match it with the best in the world, then the better chance we have in the future of doing even better at these tournaments.
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“We have the Aussie DNA, the Aussie spirit but if we can produce the same … technical ability and tactical ability as some of the European nations, some of the South American Asians.
“If we can hit that mark in those aspects and then have that Aussie DNA as well, then I think we have a real chance to do something special.”