Socceroos debutants Mark Birighitti and Connor Pain delighted to get their opportunities at the EAFF East Asian Cup
Australia may not have achieved the results they wanted at the 2013 East Asian Cup, but Holger Osieck did succeed in testing out the next generation of Socceroos, with Mark Birighitti and Connor Pain among the latest debutants.
Newcastle Jets goalkeeper Birighitti came into the team in place of Eugene Galekovic for the final match, a 4-3 defeat to China.
Despite what the scoreline suggested, the 22-year-old acquitted himself well between the sticks, making several good saves to keep his team in contention until China's late two-goal burst.
"Tonight I was lucky enough to make my debut for Australia, it's my first cap and it's a dream come true," Birighitti said.
"I've dreamt of playing for my national team since I was a young kid. I was lucky enough to represent [the] Joeys, Under-20s, Olyroos, but to do it for the Socceroos is definitely a dream come true.
"Disappointing result tonight, losing by one goal, but on an individual note I was happy with my performance.
"I made a few crucial saves, it could have been a lot more.
"We did a lot of video analysis on China during the week and we knew they were going to be tough to break down.
"They were a well-organised group. But full credit to the boys, to score three goals and make the scoreline a bit more reasonable was a good effort by the whole team."
Having been called up to the senior squad and handed his first start by Osieck, Birighitti can now consider himself one of the many promising Australian goalkeepers in contention to displace veteran Mark Schwarzer as first-choice shot-stopper.
"It's always nice to be in the mix," he said.
"With my performance tonight, it's definitely a good step. Mark Schwarzer's a good goalkeeper. Even if he's not playing, what he's done for Australia is fantastic and there's a lot of good goalkeepers out there.
"I've just got to bide my time, keep performing well and when I do get the opportunity to represent my country I'll make sure I grab it with both hands."
Osieck also handed a debut to Birighitti's team-mate Josh Brillante, while Pain got his first cap when he came off the bench in the second half at Jamsil Olympic Stadium.
The young winger has enjoyed a remarkable week, in which he left the Socceroos' training camp in Seoul to play for Melbourne Victory in their sold-out exhibition against Liverpool at the Melbourne Cricket Ground last Wednesday, before returning to Korea in time to earn full international honours.
"[I'm] grateful to be given the opportunity, I didn't expect it, but a cap's a cap," Pain said after his cameo in the entertaining contest.
"I'm just very happy to have got on the park. I tried to get on there and do my job and I'm very grateful for it.
When asked if he felt he was in with a chance of featuring in future Socceroos squads, Pain said: "Hopefully. I don't expect it to be any time soon, but it's been a great experience being here and being with the lads, hopefully, eventually, I'll be able to get back in."
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