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Australia reflect on Socceroos World Cup ride -

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Broadcast: 27/06/2006

Australia reflect on Socceroos World Cup ride

Reporter: Kerry O'Brien

KERRY O'BRIEN: Peter Wilkins, who has witnessed the Socceroos' incredible emotional journey first
hand, joins me now from Friedrichsruhe. Peter, this match, surely was an absolute pinnacle
performance by the Socceroos, but will it go down in Australia's World Cup history as the precious
one that got away?

PETER WILKINS: It most certainly will, Kerry. In fact, just a few moments ago Guus Hiddink, on the
way out, expressed disappointment not only in the penalty decision, but the fact that they didn't
take their chances in the second half when they had a numerical advantage, and so you see the
situation where they're into the last 16, but they could quite easily have been into the last eight
and who knows, a little bit further. So that is eating the team. This was the one that got away.
They had Italy on the rack, on the back foot, one of the most princely powers in the world game,
and they just couldn't put them away.

KERRY O'BRIEN: I know there must be some extra agony in the Australian camp, given that the
Ukraine, having got through against Switzerland, may have - would have been the team they then had
to beat in the quarterfinals to get not too difficult a passage through to the semis.

PETER WILKINS: That's right. And a couple of them just left by car - Mile Sterjovski, a few others
have left, Mark Schwarzer - and you could see it in their faces. They probably heard or saw
snippets of the game, Ukraine versus Switzerland, which went to penalties, and they saw two sides
they could easily have accounted for and then they would have gone on to meet Germany or Argentina.
So, a last four position - these chances don't come around that often, that's what they're
reflecting on right at this point.

KERRY O'BRIEN: I know when you get so close and that final decision is a controversial one, it
would be a natural reaction to say "We was robbed", but now that the dust has settled a little, is
that still really the prevailing sentiment in the Australian camp? You talked about what Guus
Hiddink had to say.

PETER WILKINS: Probably, yes. Guus Hiddink thinks there's a perception, which becomes reality, that
the champion teams, the world champions, get a little bit of an armchair ride up against the
minnows, and while you could see that certainly against the Brazilian game where all those fouls
they were awarded, they were misrepresented basically against Croatia, the diabolical decisions
against Japan, the sort of false goal there against Schwarzer, but here from this humble opinion,
the referee had a terrific game up until that last moment and, sure, it was a dodgy decision but if
you're a defender putting yourself on the ground in front of an attacker going for goal, it's a bit
like padding up to Shane Warne: you're putting yourself in that little danger zone there and you
don't want to be doing it. Lucas Neill had to do it and it was a desperate way to end. And I think
the frustration of the bad decision "we was robbed" that was borne of that second half when
Australia just controlled it. The hairs were up on the back of the neck - the amount of possession
they had and the angles they were playing - but in the final third, they just couldn't make it
count. They probably only had the one real chance - the Tim Cahill with the header over - but if
that had got in they would be absolute heroes today. They are still heroes, but they would still be
in the tournament.

KERRY O'BRIEN: What does it say that over their four matches, in each case fighting above their
weight in terms of ratings and rankings, that the Socceroos scored five goals and had only six
goals scored against them? That is a net deficit of only one goal over four games.

PETER WILKINS: It's absolutely remarkable. Look at the history: one World Cup appearance 32 years
ago - no goals, two defeats - 2-0, 3-0 - so they conceded five, and scored none. Here, they've
scored 5 goals. That's a gem to grab hold of and they have conceded six and one was a bodgy
penalty. They've played Brazil, they've played Italy, they've played two teams ranked much higher
than them in the world, and they've competed up until the last moment in every game: against Japan,
it went down to the wire; against Brazil, they were trailing 1-0 with a minute or two to go and the
match was in the balance; Croatia - we know about that edge-of-the-seat match; and then, this one -
this cataclysmic result when they were just 11 or 12 seconds away from going into extra time, with
two men still off the bench to come, Italy down to 10 having used up all their replacements.
Tactically, from the heart, the Australians have played above their weight and they can take these
moments into the future and on to bigger and better things.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Peter Wilkins, thanks very much for joining us and for the coverage over the past
four games. Thank you.

(c) 2006 ABC