How Socceroos 'gained a lot of respect' v France at FIFA World Cup 2018
Two years ago, the Socceroos were narrowly defeated 2-1 in their opening match against France at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
The Green and Gold were well prepared for the match, having brushed aside the Czech Republic 4-0 and Hungry 2-1 in pre-World Cup friendlies.
For Hull City midfielder Jackson Irvine, the friendlies proved to be the perfect opportunity to impress new coach Bert van Marwijk, but despite coming off the bench in both, he was still unsure if he would be involved in his first World Cup.
"You just really wanted to be involved, you're not sure what your contribution is going to be, more often than not half the squad won't get on the pitch at all," Irvine said.
"But fortunately for me, the staff liked what they saw and what I could contribute."
The opening match against France was the realisation of a lifelong dream for Irvine, who came off the bench to make his World Cup debut with 17 minutes remaining.
Despite fantasying about the moment his whole life, he admitted that he was completely relaxed.
"It was one of the games that I have been the least nervous for my life," he explained.
"Which is just so odd in a way, but it had all built up to a point where you just couldn't even be nervous for it.
"You just really have to embrace it, enjoy it, try to take it all in and do something within the time that you have on the park."
On the other side of the spectrum, the match against Les Bleus marked the beginning of a second FIFA World Cup campaign for goalkeeper Mat Ryan.
And the Premier League based shot-stopper admitted that he felt much more adept heading into a second tournament.
"I remember comparing the differences from my first World Cup to the second one, I felt much more prepared and ready," he explained.
"The first time around I wanted to go and embrace it all but this time around I wanted to actually be there and win games.
"I didn’t want to just participate, I wanted to create life long memories through being successful."
And it was that experience that showed in the first half the match as he kept the French scoreless by stopping a barrage of attacks.
Although there was nothing Ryan could do after the half time break, as the match exploded into life when the referee awarded France a penalty following Joshua Risdon’s sliding challenge on Antoine Griezmann.
The Socceroos would peg one back just three minutes later through skipper Mile Jedinak, but in the end, it would not be enough as Paul Pogba popped up late to hand the eventual World Cup winners all three points.
"We were so close to getting a result in that game," Ryan admitted.
"On another day, we may have had more luck with decisions but it was a performance that we gained a lot of respect from.
"It put us in a position to go out there and believe that we could be successful."