Players in the mood to party with fans
The Qantas Socceroos have completed their graduation into world football's elite. Now bring on the after-party.
DOHA, June 7 AAP - The Qantas Socceroos have completed their graduation into world football's elite. Now bring on the after-party.
The Qantas Socceroos secured back-to-back World Cup finals berths for the first time with a scoreless draw against a determined Qatar in Doha on Saturday night (Sunday morning AEST).
It was a long way from the euphoria of the penalty shootout win over Uruguay four years ago, which took them to Germany in 2006.
But in its own way, it was equally spectacular - achieved with two games to go, without losing a game in the final stage of qualification or conceding a goal.
"I'm just absolutely buzzing," star Tim Cahill said.
"Hopefully everyone appreciates it, we know they do.
"This is a reward for Australia, this is a reward for everyone, especially the kids, they can live all their dreams."
After decades of World Cup heartbreak, in which the Qantas Socceroos only reached only one World Cup between 1930 and 2002, they have ushered in a new era with successive qualifications.
That began with a magnificent showing at the 2006 World Cup, where the Qantas Socceroos progressed from their group under Guus Hiddink and were beaten narrowly by eventual champions Italy.
Any doubts that performance was a fluke were blown away by the emphatic style of qualification in Australia's first campaign under new hero Pim Verbeek - the first since moving to the Asian Football Confederation.
There are still matches to come, against Bahrain in Sydney on Wednesday and Japan in Melbourne a week later.
Those matches promise to be big `thank you' parties, from the team to the fans and vice versa.
But mostly it's a celebration that those days of heartbreak and hard luck stories are long gone.
"Talking 10 years ago, Australia's dream was just to make the World Cup," midfielder Vince Grella said.
"Now we've made two in row and and I think we shouldn't forget how important it is."