Socceroo defender Alex Wilkinson says marking the likes of Torres, Villa, van Persie, Robben and Sanchez at Brazil 2014 taught him valuable lessons at international level - but he isn't taking his spot in the team for granted.
“You learn that you’ve got to be switched on for the whole 90 minutes, and that you can’t mentally switch off for one second against those teams and players," he said at Sydney airport on Thursday night.
“They can punish you so quickly and I think we found that during all three games.
“If you switch off for a tiny and lapse in concentration you get punished.
“As a defender I wasn’t happy with conceding nine goals. We pride ourselves on keeping clean sheets.
“But it was a relatively new back line and the more we play together it’ll get better.
“It’s a huge learning curve for me and the whole team, a young team that hadn’t experience a major tournament.”
A small number of Socceroos and support staff, including Adam Taggart, Wilkinson and Mat Ryan, touched down in Sydney on Thursday night to be greeted by large media contingent.
Wilkinson, 29, played in all three games and was part of a Socceroo team that lost all three games to end Group B bottom behind Spain, Chile and Holland.
The former Mariner echoed the sentiments of his Socceroo teammate Mat Ryan that while the plaudits for an eye-catching campaign are nice, it’s still a hollow feeling to end bottom of
“Overall it’s been a reasonably positive experience but it would’ve been nice to come home with some points.
“The first two performances were reasonably good – apart from the first 20 minutes against Chile.
“And the Netherlands’ performance was quite good but against Spain we weren’t at our best.
“Out of those first two games we definitely could’ve got something. In that regard it’s still disappointing we come home empty-handed.
“At international level you just can’t afford to give teams two goal leads [against Chile].
“Still it was a great experience. To play against some of those players was a huge moment for the team. And it can only do good things going into the Asian Cup.”
Wilkinson, who plies his trade in the K-League, was adamant the World Cup didn’t automatically mean certain players were automatic selections for Asian Cup 2015 – the most prestigious and biggest football tournament ever to be played in Australia.
“No, definitely not,” he said when asked if he’d cemented his spot for the Asian Cup next January.
“The boss [Ange Postecoglou] has made it clear no-one in the squad is safe and we’ve got to be playing regular football and playing well.
“The boss will be on his scouting missions looking at all sorts of new players and everyone’s got to be performing.
“It’s great he’s instilling that culture in the team that everyone’s on their toes and no-one’s spot is safe.”
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