Aussie Aussie Aussie, Joy Joy Joy!

By getting to Russia the hard way, the Socceroos discovered who they are.

We went the hardest, furthest way a team could possibly get to Russia.

We steeled ourselves against a determined Syrian side; we toiled in the hostile environs of Honduras. We worked hard, probably the hardest we’ve had to work to achieve this goal since November 2005.

We put ourselves in a compromising position, but by doing it the hard way, we became what we are. We gained our identity.

We followed a modern-day bush ranger in Mile Jedinak, an ageing mercurial talent in Tim Cahill, and his possible heir Daniel Arzani to battle on the Russian steppe. We are here, and we have nothing to lose.

Mile Jedinak celebrates with teammates after scoring the first goal during the 2nd leg of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier between the Australia and Honduras. (Image: Steve Christo/Corbis via Getty Images)

A mere decade and a half ago, just to be on the world stage was the dream of our country. Now we must keep that in mind as we return for the fourth time since. We must play with the backing of 24 million people , and play with the values of our country: mateship, honesty, and a love for the underdog. If we believe in ourselves, we will go far – even further than we've already come.

We owe this effort to people who are here and who won’t be again. We owe it to Tim Cahill.  A player of his talent comes around once in a generation, and I fear this is the end of that generation.  He scored our first-ever world cup goal, and he deserves an appropriate send off.

Tim Cahill during the match between Australia and Colombia on March 27, 2018. (Image: Visionhaus#GP/Getty Images)

We owe it to the memory of Les Murray and Johhny Warren. This will be our first cup without Les, a fact I’m finding hard to come to grips with.  It will hit home tonight when the Hungarian-Australian’s enthusiastic halftime words won’t be heard. I’ve been to more World Cups with Les than I have with the Socceroos – he truly symbolises everything football is in this country.

It won't be the same without you, Les. Image: Getty.

We owe it to the coming generation. Players like Arzani and Nabout need to be born into a positive, optimistic, fearless culture, to grow into the talented world-class footballers we know they can be.  Let's show them the way.

Socceroos player Daniel Arzani during a team training session on May 20, 2018. (Image: AAP Image/Football Federation Australia)

2006 was a golden generation, a special team: the feeling that swept the country as we backed our boys in Germany was immense.  I want to feel that again. I think I can. I think this group can do amazing things.

The World Cup is a special time for the world every four years. For a brief three weeks, Donald Trump will mean less than Lionel Messi, Angela Merkel will mean less than Thomass Mueller, and the world will come together to focus on something beautiful, something that takes our eyes off the problems of the world, and unites us.

It was an amazing time when I was young, even when the Socceroos didn't qualify. To see the likes of Baggio and Zidane become bigger-than-life legends before our very eyes was amazing to behold.

In 2006, that all changed when we got the chance to be part of the spectacle. It wasn't important if we won – just having the opportunity to show the world our grit, determination and style is all that mattered. The current generation needs to remember that lesson – don’t take a trip to the World Cup for granted, don’t complain about our hard group, just be thankful we get the opportunity to play on the greatest stage and test our skills against the best.

The Socceroos ahead of the FIFA World Cup match against Croatia in Stuttgart on June 22, 2006. (Image: Popperfoto/Getty Images)

I can’t wait for that moment when the nation collectively says, “who else?” as the great Tim Cahill runs to the corner for a left right hook combo. Timmy will cement his place as the greatest Socceroo of all time during this Cup.

I can’t wait to see which young superstar of the future emerges. Will it be the youngster Arzani, or will Nabout be the centre forward we’ve been looking for?

There’ll be highs and lows and, I can’t wait to experience them both with this group of boys. I’m proud of the national team.

Tonight we start to write the next chapter in the great World Cup book.  Heartbreak will occur, legends will be made and another part of Socceroo history will be written.

I love that there are 32 nations all around the world with people just like me, feeling just the way I do about their country's chances: excited and ready to show the world their brand of football, their national pride. It’s truly the best thing in the world.

Enjoy your World Cup, one and all, because I know we’ll all be doing it together.