Ahead of the Subway Socceroos’ upcoming FIFA World Cup 2026™ qualifiers, captain Maty Ryan spoke on previous campaigns and what playing in the Green and Gold means to him.
With qualifying beginning on Thursday, 16 November, Ryan will be searching to appear in his record-breaking fourth World Cup tournament - a record currently held by Tim Cahill.
Reflecting on the experiences of donning the Green and Gold at the biggest tournament in world football, Ryan spoke of the importance and impact the World Cup has across the globe.
“To sum it up in words is pretty hard to do, but it’s the pinnacle,” he said.
“There’s nothing quite compared to playing games at a World Cup.
“It only comes around every four years and the whole world basically stops for this one tournament.
“It provides a real special platform for us as players representing our countries there and there’s nothing better.”
The Socceroos are set to play six games - three home, and three away - during the Second Round qualification stage between November and June next year.
Ryan, as a veteran in the Socceroos squad, has been part of a plethora of different experiences while representing his beloved nation.
He’s been through the gruelling COVID campaign, where self-isolation was rampant upon entering any country, and has experienced the alluring ups and the devastating downs of the last three previous campaigns.
However, when asked about what has stuck out most to him across his career in World Cup qualification for the Socceroos, he didn’t speak of the difficulties of COVID, or the on field performance.
“There are things that stick out for different reasons, I guess,” he stated.
“One that stands out is Bangladesh away, going there - the living conditions and the status of where the country was and what protocols had to take place for us to even go there stood out.
“There were police escorts from the airport all the way to the hotel.
“You look outside your hotel window and you see, in comparison to Australia, the sort of poor quality of living the locals have there and it really makes you realise and recognise how fortunate we are being Australian.
“I guess it’s those sorts of adversities that you see that really make you take note.”
Ryan also spoke of the qualification campaign allowing the squad to visit a diverse range of countries across Asia, whilst also speaking about the difficulties of the campaign as a whole.
“Other examples are Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan when we went there back in the campaign qualifying for the 2018 World Cup,” he reflected.
“I hadn’t even heard of those countries before and they got drawn in our group so we had to head there, on our merry way we go.
“That’s the thing, when you have prizes like qualifying for World Cups, these are the challenges you need to face and you’ve got to demonstrate all of the characteristics to overcome them.
“It’s a long journey and a gruelling one, but the fruits at the end of it are so sweet that you have no worries in confronting them and doing all you can to reach the end goal of playing in the World Cup.”
Ryan has shown those characteristics and so much more over the last three qualification campaigns, and they will be more prevalent than ever as he leads the Socceroos in search of his fourth World Cup, with the aim of making it a sixth consecutive appearance for the Green and Gold.
Australia’s captain took a brief moment to reflect on his career thus far, calling his time with the Green and Gold “surreal”, as Ryan demonstrated compelling, heartfelt passion for his national team.
“It only feels not too long ago that I was a young kid growing up and idolising the Socceroos, tuning into all their matches and wondering if I could possibly get to that level and stage one day.
“As you’re going through your career, you don’t get much time to look back and reflect, there’s always games coming up and another tournament to look forward to,” he said.
“You can get caught up in that sort of fast-paced lifestyle and it only takes until you sort of sit down with someone mentioning these types of things (the possibility of a fourth World Cup) that it really hits you.”
However, that passion extended to his motivation and desire to keep training and improving, to give him and his side every chance to make the year 2026 a deeply special one.
“My main motivation is to never rest on my laurels, I want to make the most of my life and opportunity in this industry, and when I hang up my boots and gloves I want to be able to look back on as many memories as possible,” he voiced.
“So, there’s been plenty of great memories that I’ve got there right now, but I want to keep adding to that and I still feel like my best football and my best memories are still there to be created - I’m hungry to create even more.”
Australia v Bangladesh - FIFA World Cup 2026™ Second Round Asian Qualifiers
Thursday, 16 November
AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 8.00pm AEDT
Tickets: PURCHASE HERE