The current success of the Socceroos is not
something that has happened over the last few weeks or months. It has been well
planned. The hard work has been done. We’ve got players and an administration
who are totally committed to the cause, and I for one will be disappointed if
we don’t make it to the second round of the World Cup.

This is a highly professional unit coached
by one of the top four coaches in the world. Our men are playing at the highest
level throughout the world, many in Europe, many in the English Premier League, and they’re very well
prepared. And it all began four years ago when David Crawford did a report into
the state of football in this country.

As a result, the Federal Government and its
agency, the Australian Sports Commission, moved on soccer. They believed that
politics was dragging it down and it needed a new start. That was when the
Australian Sports Commission invested $15m into the game by way of loans and
some seed capital.

The government then invited Frank Lowy to
head up the new board and he accepted. He set about putting the planks in place
for success. There were four main planks: 1) World Cup qualification, 2)
setting up an A-League that was better than anything we’d ever had, 3) taking
World Cup qualification for 2006 and also club competition into Asia, and 4) a total review of
the constitution.

Three of those four have been delivered,
and within the next few months a review of the constitution will be complete
and I’m sure Frank will move to put it in place.

The firm foundations have been laid. The
big task for Australia now is to retain the momentum, no matter what the results are in Germany. I’m
sure the administration has already got the necessary contingency plans in
place. Media support has never been as great as it is now, corporate support is
through the roof, and the support of the people is quite phenomenal as we saw
at the recent game against Greece.

I think we’re on a high, a high that is well-earned.

This is a very different scenario to 1974.
Back then, we were a part-time team. That team was 95% other than
Australian born. This time around, we have a totally professional team. The
only thing is, we haven’t been back to the holy grail. This is the time and we
require a supreme effort.

The signs that we are going to get it are
very positive. The signs were very positive against the Dutch on Sunday night. Of
our World Cup opponents, I believe we can beat Japan. Brazil
are not the 6-4 favourites for nothing – they are the best side in the world. Croatia
on their day can beat anybody in the world, but they are highly temperamental
and have many off days.

Reaching the second round is not an
unreasonable expectation. Anything beyond that is in the lap of the gods.

Peter Fray

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