Jackson Irvine hopes Australia can reward fans who get up early to see their World Cup play-off against Peru and inspire the next generation of Socceroos with victory. The one-off battle for a spot in the Qatar final kicks off Monday from 9pm in Doha, meaning fans in Australia will have to get up in the wee hours on Tuesday morning to watch the match on screens at 4am AEST.
“It seems like a lifetime ago, but it was a different time when I got up in the morning and watched matches,” Irvine said in Doha. “Hopefully the younger generation will wake up and some future Socceroos can tell their own story about how they watched us qualify and come and experience it for themselves.”
Australia and Irvine are no strangers to the playoffs route, having reached the 2018 World Cup in Russia after two-legged knockouts against Syria and Honduras. Irvine played in the scoreless first leg of that play-off against Honduras and was an unused substitute for the decisive 3-1 win in the second leg in Sydney, where Australia qualified for a fourth consecutive World Cup in front of an ecstatic crowd of 77,000 at the Olympics. stadium.
“A lot of the guys who are here today were part of that, so we have to bring that to the players who weren’t there,” said Germany’s Irvine. “All past experiences can help us grow and contribute to what we’re going to do next week.”
There will only be a few dozen traveling fans and a few Australian expats at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on Monday, but the Socceroos are used to playing in front of rows of empty seats in Doha.
They defeated the United Arab Emirates 2-1 in the Asian World Cup play-off on Tuesday at the same stadium, and Jordan in a friendly match with the same score last week at a different Doha stadium. They also won both of their “home” World Cup qualifiers in the Qatari capital last year, while Australia’s borders were effectively closed due to Covid-19.
“Every experience is unique,” said Irvine, who scored the first goal in the victory over the Emiratis. “It’s a very different environment, but hopefully we’ll be there to deliver the same result.”
Graham Arnold’s team returned to training at Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha on Thursday, but injured defender Trent Sainsbury (knee) did not participate in the session. Adam Taggart (thigh) took on light duties when Australia was allowed to use the official World Cup ball, called the Al Rihla, for the first time.
Striker Jamie Maclaren said that despite the luck in winning the UAE, celebrations were kept to a minimum as the job he and his teammates got to Qatar was only half done.
“You could say it was a semi-final and this is the cup final,” Maclaren told AAP. “We have some great players who have done it in big moments and we also have some players who have done really well.
“In terms of the other night, the back four were great. Maty Ryan gets up when we need him. Everyone has a role to play. Big moments, big games, and that’s what we want to play in. We’ve seen it as young kids growing up watching the Socceroos, and now – it’s weird to say – but we’re in that moment now. It’s up to us … we’ve come this far and we look forward to going again.”
Maclaren was also part of Australia’s squad for the 2018 World Cup as Peru took a 2-0 group stage win over the Socceroos in Russia and the world number 22 will be the favorite for the game. However, the 28-year-old is convinced that the Socceroos will not die.
“It’s huge, I don’t want to put too much emphasis on it because it’s just another game, but it’s a game you have to win. Let’s face it,” he said. “It’s do or die, all or nothing, all these kind of quotes you want to say. It comes down to 90 minutes against Peru and we know they are a good team, but we are also a good team. We can’t wait, we also get some bodies back and we go in there with a very strong squad.”
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