Socceroos stars could not wipe the smiles off their faces as they celebrated qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup on Thursday.
Members of the team that beat Honduras 3-1 at Stadium Australia on Wednesday to reach sport’s biggest party for the fourth time in a row were flanked by coach Ange Postecoglou at a public celebration at Sydney’s Martin Place.
A hat-trick from skipper Mile Jedinak saw Australia become the penultimate nation to book their spot at the World Cup – Peru rounded out the qualification on Thursday afternoon (AEDT) with an emphatic 2-0 victory over New Zealand in Lima.
Socceroo Mark Milligan, who returned to the side in the second-leg triumph at Stadium Australia, said the team deserved its place in Russia.
“When that final whistle went, it was relief,” Milligan said.
“It’s been a long journey.
“It was a relief that we got there and we did it our way. I’m extremely excited to be a part of this group.”
Much discussion will now focus on Postecoglou’s future, with the Socceroos coach – who was reportedly set to quit following the Honduras play-off – announcing on Wednesday evening that a decision on his future “won’t take long”.
In the same press conference, Postecoglou claimed he would “always be an outsider in Australian football” and said recent criticism of his work had inspired him.
Robbie Kruse – who came off the bench to win a late penalty, scored by Jedinak – told The New Daily that he was desperate for Postecoglou to stay.
“Everyone in the team, all the boys, all the staff are behind him 100 per cent,” he said.
“I think Ange has turned Australian football in a different way, in a positive way and some people still haven’t realised that yet.
“I think eventually they are going to realise what an impact he has had on the game in Australia and I can speak on behalf of the whole team … we’re all begging, hoping, that he can come to the World Cup.”
Kruse is confident that with Postecoglou at the helm, Australia can cause a few surprises in Russia next year.
“We’ve been criticised a lot – particularly the boss has had to take the brunt of a lot of things but I think we made it [qualification] more sweeter [the hard way],” he said.
“I really hope the boss can stay on and finish what we started.
“I think we can turn a lot of heads at the World Cup so yeah, let’s hope it all goes to plan.”
Australia will find out its opponents at next year’s event in the December 1 draw, to take place at Russia’s State Kremlin Palace.
— Caltex Socceroos (@Socceroos) November 16, 2017
– with AAP