Caltex Socceroo fan urges public to experience ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ night

John Pignatoro was there in 2005 – the Caltex Socceroo fan’s recollections bringing him to tears.

Now, 12 years on from the Uruguay intercontinental qualifier at Stadium Australia – where Australia qualified for a World Cup for the first time in 32 years – the drama is back.

Wednesday night. Stadium Australia. The Socceroos v Honduras – Australia’s final hurdle for a place at the 2018 World Cup.

It’s winner-takes-all. This is it. The last game in qualification!

And John’s urging anyone who doesn’t have a ticket to not miss the edge of the seat, thrill-a-minute football that looms.

“It’s difficult to put into words. You’re full of excitement and confusion, not knowing what is going to transpire,” John tells

“When you get to the ground, though, there is a feeling of ‘we’re going to do this’. That’s what happened with the Uruguay game.

John Aloisi celebrates after scoring the penalty that sent Australia to the 2006 World Cup.

“I’m hopeful that’s exactly what’s going to happen on Wednesday when I get to the ground and see all the fans there.

“It’s great for people who have never been to a game before, especially people who aren’t real football supporters.

“If you come to a game like this it will turn you around because the atmosphere, the passion, the excitement, you can’t experience it anywhere else.

“I’ve been to the Olympics before, to Grand Finals, and there is nothing that comes close to matching the atmosphere of a game like this.

Socceroos fan
Caltex Socceroos fan John Pignatoro

“My advice is to go to the game and check it out because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“This is actually my second opportunity to experience something like this. 12 years ago I went through exactly the same emotional rollercoaster and it’s a memory that lasts forever. If you haven’t done it before, I highly recommend seeing us go out there.

“My youngest is too young to go out that night of the week but I’m going to take my middle boy.

“Even though it will be a late night for him, I’m sure it will be a memory that will stay with him for a long time.

“I saw a video of one of the Uruguay players speaking about when they played us in 2005 and he said when Bresciano scored that goal he hadn’t experienced anything like that ever before and he had played on many, many big stages.”

 Marco Bresciano
Source  :  Football Federation Australia Website

Socceroo Mat Ryan locks in six-year Valencia deal

July 22, 2015 – 12:06PM

Mat Ryan at his new club.

Mat Ryan at his new club. Photo: Twitter/Valencia

Socceroos goalkeeper Mat Ryan has sealed his dream move to La Liga, locking in a six-year deal with Valencia from Club Brugge.

The 23-year-old former Central Coast gloveman has passed his medical with the glamour Spanish side, which finished fourth in the country’s top tier last season and will play in the qualifying stages of this year’s Champions League.

It means he will be charged with stopping living soccer legends Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo on a regular basis, especially given first-choice gloveman and Brazilian international Diego Alves is sidelined until next year with a knee injury.

Club Brugge, where Ryan spent a successful two seasons during which he was twice voted as Belgium’s best goalkeeper, has agreed on an undisclosed fee with Valencia believed to be worth STG5 million ($A10.56 million).

Ryan underwent his first training session with his new teammates and Portuguese coach Nuno Espirito Santo at Mestalla Stadium on Tuesday, before revealing just how bold his European ambitions are.

“We want to eventually win La Liga and win the Champions League, and I’ll be doing my best to help the team achieve this,” he told Valencia’s website.

“I’d like to say I’m very athletic, quick along the ground. You know, I like to be a sweeper keeper with the ball at my feet.

“So hopefully me coming here, and hopefully doing well and winning many things for Valencia, can open the door for a lot of other Australians to come over to Spain.”

Since leaving the Mariners in 2013 Ryan’s career has been on a firm upward trajectory, his sublime form catching the eye of numerous European clubs including Liverpool.

With 21 caps for Australia, the Sydney-born stopper also cemented himself as Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou’s No.1 pick between the posts.

Valencia chairwoman Chan Lay Hoon tipped Ryan to have a “major impact”.

“It has not been an easy task looking for a Champions League-level goalkeeper,” she said.

“Mathew may be young, but he is ambitious and a player with huge potential.”

Former Mariners mentor Graham Arnold said he was certain the prodigious talent had made the right move, adding he is perfectly suited to the Spanish game.

The current Sydney FC coach said Ryan’s natural leadership and ability to distribute the ball from the back would make him a success at his new club.

“I think it’s a very smart move, going to Spain rather than England,” Arnold said.

“It suits him much better, his style as a goalkeeper – it’s a fantastic move for him.”

Ryan’s move will also be music to the ears of Mariners owner Mike Charlesworth, with the A-League club pocketing 15 per cent of the total transfer fee due to a contractual `sell-on’ clause.


The Sydney Morning Herald

Former Socceroo Robbie Hooker in $600,000 dispute with TAB over Premier League bets

February 6, 2015 – 11:21PM

Chris Barrett

Sports Writer

Dispute: Former Socceroo Robbie Hooker is pursuing more than $600,000 in winnings he says he is owed by the TAB. The bookmaker says the confusion is down to a glitch in an out-of-date version of the TAB app.

Dispute: Former Socceroo Robbie Hooker is pursuing more than $600,000 in winnings he says he is owed by the TAB. The bookmaker says the confusion is down to a glitch in an out-of-date version of the TAB app. Photo: Brendan Esposito

In the 1990s Robbie Hooker was an uncompromising defender for a string of clubs in the old National Soccer League. He won 20 caps for the Socceroos, famously crying in the dressing room at the MCG after Australia’s World Cup qualifying dream was shattered against Iran in 1997.

That black night in Australian soccer history turned out to be the last of Hooker’s international career; he’d plough on for another five years as a professional, forging a hard-earned reputation for never taking a backward step if for nothing else.

It is an attribute the 47-year-old is exhibiting in another personal battle.

"I did place those bets and they offered those odds because of their faulty app": Hooker.

“I did place those bets and they offered those odds because of their faulty app”: Hooker. Photo: Craig Golding

Hooker is in a lengthy stoush with Tabcorp over claims of a faulty app, believing he is owed more than $600,000 by the wagering giant over bets he placed on the English Premier League that were never paid out.


Tabcorp see things differently, claiming the fault could only have arisen by someone deliberately manipulating an internet connection while placing a bet.

But back to the start.

Hooker’s bet receipt, which shows the wagers were placed on the EPL relegation market.

Hooker’s bet receipt, which shows the wagers were placed on the EPL relegation market. Photo: Supplied

Hooker’s tale begins in early 2013, when he was still an assistant coach of the Socceroos under Holger Osieck.

A keen punter and follower of not only soccer but other sports, he was scrolling through the markets on the TAB app and used his index finger to call up the National Rugby League section, with round six of the competition approaching.

He honed in, in particular, on the match between Manly and Cronulla at Brookvale Oval and fancying the chances of the outsiders at an attractive first-half price he placed $500 on the Sharks to be ahead at half-time.

The error message that appeared after Hooker placed the bets, triggering the fault in the TAB app.

The error message that appeared after Hooker placed the bets, triggering the fault in the TAB app. Photo: Supplied

A bet receipt and transaction number flashed up on the screen, confirming the wager, but when Hooker navigated his way to his TAB account statement later he got a surprise. The bet had been listed not as a first-half option but for Cronulla to win straight out.

Hooker was miffed and dialled up the TAB. “I rang them up and at that point they said it can’t be changed or cancelled. They said ‘you must have made an error’,” he said. “So I went away and thought, ‘well, maybe I did make an error’. I must have pressed the wrong button.”

The issue nagged away at Hooker, though, and the next day he returned to the app, and suspecting there might be a problem with that particular market, scrutinised it closely. He couldn’t see the price he had been offered and bet on the previous day, but after an hour or so an error message popped up on his screen.

Hooker’s TAB account statement, which indicates the bets were placed on teams to win the English Premier League.

Hooker’s TAB account statement, which indicates the bets were placed on teams to win the English Premier League. Photo: Supplied

Hooker clicked OK on the message, and then noticed that the price for Cronulla to win the first half was suddenly the same as it had been the day before. He placed the bet again, but this time filmed the process on his phone. His account statement again said he’d bet on the Sharks head to head, not the first half.

Hooker says the TAB later refunded his money when he provided the video evidence – neither bet won, as Cronulla were behind at half-time and full-time – but the problem began occurring again and again. Bets he placed were not recorded as he intended them to be if he placed them directly after his internet connection had dropped out.

“From that time I knew that they had a problem with their app,” Hooker said. “But they were still accepting bets from the app, and there were still errors coming up. I wrote to them on a number of occasions saying, ‘here’s a bet receipt, you haven’t paid me’. They denied there were any problems with the app and they said their account statement was a true and correct record of all bets placed. So I just kept placing bets.”

In December of that year, he placed three of the six that are at the centre of the dispute. Hooker was flicking through EPL markets for the 2013-14 season and the error message came up. He clicked OK as usual, and perused the EPL section again.

“The market that came up was the relegation battle, which was ridiculous odds,” he said.

Teams such as Crystal Palace, Sunderland, West Ham, Cardiff City, Norwich City and Fulham were listed at $5001 to be relegated six months later, when in reality they should have been considered among the main contenders to go down.

Hooker got on. He filmed himself placing $20 on six of the clubs at long odds and watched the receipts flash up. A few weeks he later backed the same teams to be relegated again, with another $20 on each of them.

In May last year, Cardiff, Norwich and Fulham went down. Hooker had backed them twice each at $5001. The return would be $100,020 for each bet – a total of $600,120.

The bets, however, had appeared in Hooker’s account statement differently. It had recorded him as backing Cardiff, Norwich, Fulham and others at $5001 to win the EPL title. The TAB refused to pay out. Hooker, however, says he simply bet according to odds that were offered to him.

“Obviously they haven’t paid me for it because they reckon I haven’t placed those bets,” Hooker said. “Now, I did place those bets and they offered those odds because of their faulty app. But that’s not my problem.”

Fairfax Media has viewed several of Hooker’s videos, including one where he places a stopwatch in it in an effort to prove its authenticity. In it he places a bet in an overs-unders market on an NBA game between LA Lakers and Houston, but the account statement shows the bet to have been made on a game between San Antonio and Dallas. The fault seems to arise in the form of the category heading above the particular market changing erratically after the internet error message pops up. While the header changes, the odds listed below stay the same. With the internet connection down, Hooker is still able to manouevre his way to the “bet slip” stage, and when the connection is reestablished, to confirm the bet.

Hooker says he has taken the issue to the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing, concerned particularly at the TAB app only flashing up bet receipts on the screen and not issuing them to punters, and arguing that the fault he found could have unknowingly affected others.

The TAB does not believe that is the case. “Firstly, Tabcorp does not comment on individual customers,” a spokesman said. “Tabcorp has more than 300,000 active account customers and this is the only occurrence of this nature that we are aware of.

“Our digital team conducted exhaustive testing after this was brought to our attention in 2013. The error described could only be replicated on a version of the TAB app dating back to April 2013 by purposely interrupting the internet connection while constructing a bet. The TAB app was upgraded to eliminate any vulnerability and has subsequently been upgraded 20 times.

“Tabcorp has kept the relevant regulatory authorities informed throughout.”

With the TAB unwilling to pay him out Hooker has engaged a solicitor in an effort to see the cash he believes should be his.

He is not tackling soccer players any more. He hung up the boots after busting his achilles playing in the Northern Suburbs Premier League, and spends much of his time looking after his four-year-old twin boys.

With one more fight on his hands, he hopes this one does not turn out like that night against Iran.



Source : The Canberra Times

Ange Postecoglou: Socceroos can cope with extra-time in Brisbane

Tommy Oar and Mark Bresciano could be unleashed against China.

Despite oppressive heat in Brisbane, Socceroo coach Ange Postecoglou has no concerns about Thursday night’s Asian Cup quarter-final against China potentially going to extra time.

Speaking at the official pre-match press conference in front of an estimated 60 media from Asia and Australia, the Socceroo coach says the Aussies are in the best shape to handle a potential extra-time scenario of knockout football in the humidity of the Queensland capital.

Though he’d prefer to win the game in 90 + minutes.

“All the indicators I’ve got from people [fitness staff] who are a lot smarter than me say the boys are in great condition.

“You watch the games and we’ve finished pretty strongly.

“From my perspective, more than confident that if it goes to extra-time that we’ll have fuel in the tank to do that.

“Obviously it’s not ideal given it takes more out of the players for games moving forward but at the end of the day, they’ll be ready to do what’s required tomorrow from a physical perspective.

“Whatever’s thrown at the them they’ll be ready for,” he said.

Postecoglou is set to reinstate skipper Mile Jedinak for Thursday night’s Asian Cup quarter-final at Brisbane Stadium.

The Australia coach said if his skipper got through today’s (Wednesday) session he was all but certain to start.

Jedinak was pushed in Tuesday’s session at QSAC, training on his own with a trainer for part of the time, going through some punishing sprint work.

“It’ll be great to have him [Jedinak] back out on the park,” said Postecoglou.

“He’s our most influential player when he’s out there and I’m sure he’ll give all the other players a lift. He’s ready and available to play.”

“Obviously if selected I’ll be ready,” added Jedinak, who conceded he probably wouldn’t have been fit for the Korea Republic game if it was a knockout match.

“I’ve had a good couple of days getting over things and getting up to speed again, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed.

“But we all know tomorrow will be a huge test.”

The Socceroos will face China PR in the Quarter-Finals of the AFC Asian Cup at Brisbane Stadium on Thursday 22 January (8.30pm local kick off). Click here to purchase tickets.

Source : Football Federation Australia website

Nathan Burns catches the eye in Socceroo squad for Asian Cup

Nathan Burns' form made it impossible to be left out of the Asian Cup squad

Nathan Burns’ form made it impossible to be left out of the Asian Cup squad

Ange Postecoglou has remained loyal to his vision with the majority of players he took to Brazil migrating across to his Asian Cup squad, which was announced on Tuesday morning in Melbourne.

However, there is one player who didn’t make the plane to Brazil that really stands out.

Nathan Burns. If there was ever a bolter in Ange’s selection for the Asian Cup, this is the one. Though, in reality, the Phoenix striker’s form was simply too irresistible to ignore.

Burns ticks all the boxes: he’s at a good age (26), playing regularly in a strong league and in red-hot form (10 goals so far this season).

He comes in as the form player of the squad but, more importantly – and this is something Ange always looks for in a player – he is desperate to prove a point.

Ten goals so far this season says it all. The former Red is comfortable as a second striker, an attacking midfielder or out wide.

The kid from Blayney in country NSW has been one of reasons why fourth-placed Wellington are now genuine dark horses for the Hyundai A-League Championship.

Phoenix set-up very similar to what Postecoglou has employed with the national team, so Burns shouldn’t have any troubles fitting in to his starting XI should he be picked for the group games against, first, Kuwait in Melbourne, then Oman in Sydney and finally Korea Republic in Brisbane.

Burns knows all about Asian Cups, too, having been part of the Socceroo squad that reached the final in 2011, only to lose 1-0 to rival Japan in the finale of the Qatar hosted event.

In total, 16 players who boarded the flight to Vitoria last May have earned a spot in the Green and Gold squad for the Asian Cup, the biggest ever football tournament to hit our shores.

Another who didn’t make the World Cup squad is Tomi Juric. But he’s emerged since then and gives Ange a different option as a lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 or as part of a front two with Cahill just playing off him.

Juric could emerge as Australia’s new striking hero after impressing during the Wanderers’ ACL run to Riyadh and the trophy in November. I hope so because we need that type of player to fire, but it’s Burns who looms as our X-Factor at the Asian Cup.

After emerging on the Hyundai A-League scene with Adelaide United in the early years of the league, Burns took up a four-year offer from AEK Athens just before the 2008 Olympics. This included a loan spell later in his contract with second division Greek club Corfu, where he scored regularly to help the island side to promotion. Burns even scored for AEK in Sydney against Glasgow Rangers in a pre-season tournament at Allianz, the same venue he scored a brace last weekend.

He parted ways with his Greek parent club after four seasons and ended up in the K-League, where it was a struggle to find regular game time at Incheon. Regular pre-season camps in Guam and periods on the sidelines with injuries would’ve been tough for this former AIS student.

But a brief spell back in Australia with the Jets last season offered a glimpse of what he can do and some hope before he returned to Korea to sort out his contract situation (no doubt he’ll have some insider tips on some of the K-League stars set to face Australia).

That was sorted out and now, at Phoenix, Burns has found his niche playing a starring role at Westpac stadium alongside a Kiwi with Scottish heritage (Michael McGlinchey), a star Dutchman (Roly Bonevacia) and a flying Fijian in Roy Krishna.

After playing a bit part in the national team till now, Burns has been presented with a golden chance to show he’s part of this new golden generation Ange Postecoglou is bringing through.

With this in mind, the Asian Cup can be Burns’ breakthrough tournament and could help cement his spot in the Socceroo side for their FIFA World Cup qualifiers starting next year.

Make sure you get your family and friends together and RISE with the Socceroos! Tickets are available by clicking here

 Join us on our journey throughout the AFC Asian Cup 2015 in January by downloading the Official Socceroos app! Download the app through the App Store or Google Play store, or CLICK HERE

Source : Football Federation Australia website

Kevin Muscat backs Ange Postecoglou Socceroo revamp

Ange Postecoglou talks to the Socceroos during a water break against Qatar.
Ange Postecoglou talks to the Socceroos during a water break against Qatar.

Kevin Muscat has defended Ange Postecoglou’s recent record at the helm of the Socceroos, insisting the head coach is well within his rights to experiment ahead of the Asian Cup.

Postecoglou has come in for criticism in some quarters following two underwhelming friendly results in the Gulf this month, a 0-0 draw with the United Arab Emirates followed by a 1-0 loss to Qatar.

Some fans and sections of the media are concerned the revamp of the national team appears to have stalled with a major tournament on home soil just over three months away.

But Muscat, who served as Postecoglou’s assistant at Victory before inheriting the top job when Football Federation Australia came calling, has complete faith in the direction the Socceroos are being taken.

“I’m more than sure,” he said when asked if his former mentor is still on the right track.

“What we see now is a lot of players have had an opportunity to put themselves in a position to be selected for the Asian Cup.

“I dare say, we know a lot more about players (now) rather than guessing if they’re good enough or how well they’ve done or how well they haven’t done.

“We know a lot more about those individuals, which should make selecting a team a little bit easier. We know understand rather than guessing what players can produce because we’ve seen it firsthand.”

Australia have one more friendly against Japan in November before their Asian Cup campaign begins against Kuwait in Melbourne on January 9.

Victory fans can expect to see Milligan pull on the green and gold in that game at AAMI Park, with the club captain a regular starter during Postecoglou’s first 12 months in charge.

Source : Football Federation Australia

Get on the Socceroo express train (and bus!)

Every ticket to the Socceroos farewell match on Monday night includes express public transport.

Get to Monday night’s farewell Socceroo match early and give our World Cup bound boys a huge lift – and to help, express public transport to and from ANZ Stadium has been laid on for Socceroo fans at no extra cost!

Express Public Transport to and from ANZ Stadium on trains and buses is included at no extra charge in every ticket for the Socceroos’ World Cup farewell match against South Africa on Monday night (7.30pm kick off).

If only we had this every day!

So take advantage of it and get a leave pass early from work so when Timmy Cahill leads out his boys for the warm up, they’ll know the Aussie fans are right behind them.

Football Federation Australia (FFA) CEO David Gallop has urged fans to get there early to get cheer on the Socceroos from the moment that they take the field for their pre-match warm-up (from 6:55pm).

So for all transport and timetable information, go to or call 131 500

And tickets are available at

“This will be an important match for us to show the Socceroos that we are all behind them as they are about to embark on their 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign in Brazil,” said Gallop.

“From the moment that they take to the field for their warm-up, we want the team to hear the chorus of support from all the fans.”

With gates opening at 5:30pm there will be plenty to see and do within the Sydney Olympic Park precinct area and in the stadium.

The highlight of the pre-match entertainment will be a performance of the Socceroos’ official song ‘Up’ by singer-songwriter Samantha Jade.

In a first for a Socceroo international, fans will be able to take part in a mass Socceroos quiz using the new world-class Wi-Fi capability at ANZ Stadium.

The interactive quiz starts from 6:50pm and involves fans answering questions which will displayed on the big screen.

In addition, at half-time, retiring Socceroos legends, Jason Culina, Brett Emerton and Mark Schwarzer will be presented to the crowd in recognition of their years of distinguished service to the national team.

On the eve of the match, David Gallop also paid tribute to the trio and what they have collectively achieved during their stellar careers.

“Mark, Brett and Jason have more than 250 international games between them and have created countless memorable moments,” said Gallop.

“They are legends of Australian football and deserve a rousing tribute from the Socceroos fans.”

Cahill will captain the Socceroos against South Africa in their farewell friendly on Monday and handing the armband to the veteran in the absence of Mile Jedinak is a fitting reward for his dedication.

Send Off the Socceroos
Socceroos vs South Africa, presented by NAB
Monday 26 May 2014
 ANZ Stadium, Sydney 
Kick-off: 7.30pm
Tickets from $30, including public transport. Buy now!

ABC Grandstand will have live coverage of the match from 1900-2135 AEST on ABC Grandstand Digital across Australia, online and via the phone app.

You can also tune in on digital SBS Radio 3 and SBS Radio 4, Digital TV, online at or via the SBS Your Language App.


Source : Football Federation Australia

Socceroo fans show passion for Brazil – #GoSocceroos

Thursday, 3 April 2014 10:48 AM

Socceroo fans show passion for Brazil

The Socceroos will be one of the most supported countries at the FIFA World Cup after it was revealed Australian fans had purchased the second most tickets of any nation outside of Brazil.

In a prime example of Australian fans’ passion for football, Socceroos supporters have bought a total of 40,681 tickets to World Cup matches.

Only supporters of the USA had purchased more tickets (154,412), with England third on the list with 38,043.

It’s a huge effort from Australian fans when you consider the vast distance to Brazil, the huge costs involved and the challenge of the Socceroos’ group opponents.

“Australian’s love our football so it doesn’t come as a surprise to me we’ll have so many fans heading over to Brazil,” said Socceroos fan Chris Mangano, who will be at all three of Australia’s group matches.

“We know it’s going to be tough but we love being the underdogs and I think we’ll give all three teams a run for their money.

“If we’re going to pull off a massive shock we’ll need everyone behind the team and know we know there will be plenty of support for the boys.

“I can’t wait. It’s going to be pretty special.”

More than 2.5million tickets have so far been sold for all the matches at the World Cup, with around 65% going to Brazilians.

The final chance to see the Socceroos on home soil before they head to the World Cup will be when they take on South Africa in a farewell game on May 26 in Sydney. Tickets for the match, presented by NAB, are on sale now. Click here to secure yours today.

Follow the Socceroos on Twitter using the hash-tag #GoSocceroos



Source : Football Federation Australia

Young ‘Roos call-up for Reds sensation

Saturday, 22 March 2014 2:00 PM

Young ‘Roos call-up for Reds sensation

Adelaide United’s rising star Awer Mabil has been named in the Young Socceroo squad for a camp in Sydney next week.

The 18-year-old Reds attacking midfielder is part of a 23-man squad selected by Young Socceroo coach Paul Okon.

Mabil, born in Kenya, has been one of the breakout stars at Adelaide this season with his pace and skill catching the eye.

The squad also includes Brisbane Roar’s former Nike Chance contestant Devante Clut, Newcastle’s Michael Kantarovski and Wanderers teenager Daniel Alessi.

The team will train in Sydney next week and play Sydney Olympic in a friendly on Wednesday night at Belmore Sportsground.

Squad for the Sydney camp 23-26 March

Daniel Alessi – Western Sydney Wanderers
Shannon Brady – Brisbane Roar
Jordan Brown – Melbourne Victory
Brandon Borello – Brisbane Roar
Devante Clut – Brisbane Roar
Shayne D’Cunha – Western Sydney Wanderers
Jacob Esposito – Sydney United
Alusine Fofanah – Western Sydney Wanderers
Michael Kantarovski – Newcastle Jets
Awer Mabil – Adelaide United
Thomas Manos (G/K) – Western Sydney Wanderers
Marc Marino – No current club (former AIS)
Stefan Mauk – Melbourne Heart
Chris Naumoff – Sydney FC
Mark Ochieng – No current club (former AIS)
Luc Pavlou – Brisbane Roar
Phillip Petreski – Melbourne Heart
Luke Radonich(G/K) – Perth Glory
Jaushua Sotorio – Western Sydney Wanderers
Jordan Thurtell (G/K) – No current club (former AIS)
George Timethiou – Belconnen Blue Devils
Ben Warland – No current club (former AIS)
Riley Woodcock – Perth Glory


Source : Football Federation Australia

Will the next star Socceroo please stand up?

December 4, 2013

Michael Lynch


Adam Taggart made waves with an A-League hat-trick against Melbourne Heart and the young Newcastle Jets striker is definitely one to look out for.

Adam Taggart made waves with an A-League hat-trick against Melbourne Heart and the young Newcastle Jets striker is definitely one to look out for. Photo: Jonathan Carroll

Australia’s golden generation has pretty much run its race.

Aside from Tim Cahill, Mark Bresciano and Lucas Neill – and the latter is probably clinging on by his fingertips – none of the big names who took Australia to the 2006 and 2010 World Cups will have anything more than an academic interest when the draw for the 2014 tournament takes place in Brazil this weekend.

The fact that Australia is, with a FIFA ranking of 59, the lowest-ranked team in the draw is a fair reflection of the nation’s standing. So the Socceroos go to Brazil with little expectation and few stars to whom they can look for inspiration. Which begs the question: After nearly a decade of unmatched local success – three World Cup qualifications and the creation of a successful A-League – why are there no emerging stars in the national team ranks? Why are veterans such as Bresciano and Cahill still key men?

Tomi Juric has ability, but his task is to show he can deliver consistently.

Tomi Juric has ability, but his task is to show he can deliver consistently. Photo: Brendan Esposito

Most people will suggest it’s because of the failure of the development program in the past 10 years. It’s hard to think of one Australian under the age of 25 who has made it in one of the big leagues in Europe in recent times, save for Robbie Kruse, who is at Bayer Leverkusen, and Mitch Langerak, the back-up goalkeeper at Borussia Dortmund. But Kruse, the former Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory forward, is not a regular starter, nor is Langerak.


There has to be some currency in that lack of development argument, and perhaps the best illustration comes not just from Australia’s inability to find home-grown stars, but from another nation’s failure to cherry-pick our best for itself.

In previous times, Croatia has trawled the Australian talent pool with great success: Josip Simunic, the Canberra-born centre-half, is probably the biggest loss Australia has had.

Luke Brattan has impressed many with his displays in the last couple of seasons for Brisbane Roar.

Luke Brattan has impressed many with his displays in the last couple of seasons for Brisbane Roar. Photo: Getty Images


Yes, he usually hits the headlines for all the wrong reasons, but he will be going to Brazil in 2014 as a key member of Croatia’s squad. It will be his third World Cup.

Croatia has also harvested Geelong-born goalkeeper Joey Didulica and Sydney-born wing-back Ante Seric from this country; the former sitting on the bench throughout the 2006 World Cup, the latter a non-playing member of the Croatian side in the 1998, 2002 and 2006 World Cups.

But this time? Nothing.

Either Australia has become better at persuading youngsters of ethnic origin to play for the land of their birth, or simply there is no one worth looking at.

Are there any emerging youngsters on the fringes of national selection or even off the radar now who might give lie to the suggestion that the development program has broken down? Is the glass half empty, or fuller than we might think?

After picking the brains of a few agents, talent spotters and sundry other Socceroo watchers, here is a list of those on the periphery who might come under consideration at some point over the next few months – if they can continue to improve and make their case in the most compelling fashion of all, with good performances. Some might be taken with a pinch of salt, but it should be a debate starter, anyway.

It won’t be easy. As Socceroo coach Ange Postecoglou made a point of saying after the win over Costa Rica, it was up to others to force their way past those in the squad he had selected for his first game in charge. But the coach is a pragmatist, so if anyone impresses he will have little hesitation in finding a spot for them in the squad.

Adam Taggart made waves with an A-League hat-trick against Melbourne Heart and the young Newcastle Jets striker is definitely one to look out for. He has already earned a Socceroo call-up in the East Asian Cup, where he scored against China.

That East Asian Cup in South Korea might not have been all that memorable as far as results go, but it did give some international exposure to a handful of other candidates, including Mitchell Duke, of Central Coast Mariners, and Tomi Juric (Western Sydney Wanderers).

Duke, it seemed, was a particular favourite of former national coach Holger Osieck, so his prospects would have been greater had the German stayed in charge. Juric has ability, but his task is to show he can deliver consistently.

The goalkeeping slots are very competitive, although Mat Ryan and Langerak look to have a lock on two places. Mark Birighitti (Jets) made his international debut against China in the East Asian Cup and played really well, but his time may be in the future.

Ben Halloran is following Kruse’s pathway, having moved from Australia to Fortuna Dusseldorf in the German second division, but is more likely to be an Asian Cup contender.

One intriguing possibility for the future is former Melbourne Heart frontman Eli Babalj, although his susceptibility to injury makes him unlikely and he has yet to make any impact at his Dutch club, AZ Alkmaar.

A player with a much better chance would be Melbourne Victory’s James Troisi, on loan for a season with the A-League club. Troisi has been involved at senior Socceroo level before and Postecoglou did sign him for Victory.

Curtis Good has captained his country at youth level but would be a long shot for selection unless Postecoglou wanted to bring along the former Melbourne Heart centre-half for experience. The left-sided defender is at English Premier League club Newcastle United, but the 20-year-old has only played once for the first team, in the League Cup.

Luke Brattan has impressed many with his displays in the last couple of seasons for Brisbane Roar and the English-born Queenslander could be considered worth a look as cover for the likes of Mark Milligan and Mile Jedinak.

There are no superstars among this lot, but once you scratch the surface perhaps the cupboard is not as bare as some thought.

Other names that were thrown up included Aston Villa’s Chris Herd, Millwall’s Shane Lowry, Greece-based Apostolos Giannou (who in his Melbourne Victory junior days was known as Paul) and Brisbane youngster Kwame Yeboah, although the latter is probably four years too early as he needs to establish himself as a Roar starter first.

OK, the Croatians might not have fancied any of them, but it doesn’t mean they can’t do a job for the Socceroos – if not now, then perhaps in the Asian Cup, which Australia hosts in 2015.

The Sydney Morning Herald