It’s mission accomplished for the Socceroos after a World Cup qualification journey awash with plot twists, trauma and finally exultation.
Having now have reserved their seats at the banquet, can the Socceroos make some waves against Group D rivals France, Denmark and Tunisia at November-December’s extravaganza in Qatar?
Wilkshire's Socceroo Faith Restored
- Former Socceroos stalwart Luke Wilkshire is convinced Australia can make an statement at the World Cup.
- Wilkshire was delighted by the desire and spirit which clinched qualification against Peru and wants more of the same come November in Qatar.
- He also saluted coach Graham Arnold for getting all the big calls spot on in the play-off.
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Eighty-cap golden generation defender Luke Wilkshire believes the Socceroos can certainly turn heads, on the proviso they duplicate the “passion, heart and aggression ” which saw them eclipse Peru 5-4 in Tuesday’s dramatic penalty shootout after a nail-chomping goalless 120 minutes in Doha.
“We showed showed real heart, passion, inspiration and aggression against Peru,” Wilkshire - recently unveiled as Central Coast Mariners head of youth development - told FTBL.
“With a bit more quality in the front third we could have won the game in normal time. We now have to bottle that type of performance and we can definitely make an impression at the World Cup, I have no doubt about that.
“It’s all about hunger, desperation and desire. If you have that you can find a way to win football matches, even against quality opposition.
“It’s about wanting it more and then adding that little bit of extra quality yourself when it matters.
“We dominated in large parts against Peru and thoroughly deserved to go through. I think Peru came in a bit complacent and thought they would just cruise through.”
Wilkshire paid homage to the wiles of coach Graham Arnold, who weathered a whirlwind of criticism at the back end of a fraught qualification campaign as Australia appeared to run out of steam.
“He got all the decisions right from the substitutions throughout to the big call to bring on Andrew Redmayne (in place of skipper Mat Ryan) for the shootout,” he added.
“If the mentality stays this strong then anything is possible come November. It’s all about belief and everyone pulling in the same direction. If you have that it’s amazing what you can achieve.
“The performance against Peru has filled me with hope, and there were times when I didn’t always feel that way during some of the other qualifiers.The fight and spirit were there for all to see.”
With Tom Rogic and Harry Souttar to come back, and Arnold giving preference to form over reputation, Wilkshire reckons nobody in the line up against Peru can rest in any laurels.
“Arnie’s message will be ‘just because you’re there now it doesn’t mean you’ll be at the World Cup’,” added the man who pulled on the Socceroos shirt at Germany 2006 and in South Africa four years later.
“They will now need to go and do the business back at club level and make sure they’re ready for November.
“There are others who’ve missed out, and a number of Olyroos knocking on the door, so competition for places will be intense.”
After the grilling Arnold suffered as the road to Qatar turned into a quagmire, Wilkshire expressed delight at the coach’s absolution.
“On a personal level I’m delighted for Arnie,” he added. “Everyone makes mistakes along the way but the one thing you know about Arnie is that he bleeds green and gold and his passion and love of the game is unwavering.
“He just wants to improve football in Australia and I’m so happy for him that the big decisions he made proved inspirational.
“I know all the hard work and the blood, sweat and tears he’s put in. He’s got his just reward in my eyes.”
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