There is little rest for the domestically based Socceroos after their Qatar heroics, as they land in Australia across Monday and Tuesday.
Within days, most will be back in action with their A-League clubs and re-igniting what has been a promising season thus far.
Craig Goodwin could well be first cab off the rank on Friday night when the Reds take on the Roar in Redcliffe, before Melbourne City trio Mathew Leckie, Marco Tilio and Jamie Maclaren are in the selection frame for the clash with Sydney FC on Saturday night.
Well rested, it is likely that Andrew Redmayne will start for the Sky Blues, whilst Central Coast’s Danny Vukovic, Jason Cummings and Garang Kuol are likely to take to the pitch on Sunday afternoon against the Jets.
There will no doubt be some emotional let-down after what was a thrilling ride in Qatar, even for players like Tilio, Redmayne and Vukovic who didn’t see action. Hopefully, there is an extra cheer or two for the eight men that now return to their A-League digs and who knows, perhaps there might even be a few extra bums on seats.
With millions of Australians engaging passionately with the World Cup and the brilliant performances of the Socceroos, the net result could be quite an interesting one for the domestic league.
The tournament has shown us yet again that the number of Australians emotionally invested in the men’s national team is simply astonishing, unwavering and greater than in any other sport.
It has also nudged the millions who enjoyed the ride; reminding them that the domestic competition is responsible for the bulk of the squad and that their love of football could quite easily be translated across to A-League membership and engagement.
As well as the players returning to Australian shores, it would be timely for the APL to flag clearly and constantly that Mathew Ryan, Aziz Behich, Kye Rowles, Aaron Mooy, Keanu Baccus and Riley McGree all cut their teeth in the A-League before heading abroad seeking opportunity.
Such reminders would endorse a competition that, for many cynics, still requires affirmation and a stamp suggesting that it does produce top level players capable of advancing to bigger and more profitable leagues around the world.
Of Australia’s starting eleven against Argentina in the Round of 16, just Harry Souttar, Milos Degenek and Jackson Irvine had not spent time playing professionally on Australian soil.
After watching the performances in Qatar, it is abundantly clear that Graham Arnold did not err in choosing his squad, despite quite a narrow selection approach that saw most appear in all four matches.
Therefore, it is also obvious that the eight men alongside Souttar, Degenek and Irvine are the best players available to the coach, with perhaps the injured Martin Boyle an exception, and that the A-League has played a key role in producing what many are calling the greatest Socceroo team of all.
It may be an uncomfortable truth for some, yet the flood of young players beating a path towards Socceroo selection is a direct by-product of the domestic competition. It has not come about via an Institute of Sport or the model of days gone by that saw many Australian players head abroad as young teenagers, in full knowledge that participation in the then NSL was likely to be something of a dead end.
Since then, football in Australian has changed dramatically and as we draw ever closer to the 20-year-anniversary of the competition, it might be high time for a few admissions from those who enjoy hearing of its pain.
Firstly, that the creation of the A-League was the best thing to ever happen to Australian football and not the death of it as many attempted to tell us at the time and secondly, players graduating through local ranks and moving abroad are indeed good enough to handle themselves on the world stage.
Names such as Cameron Devlin, Keanu Baccus, Kuol and players not selected this time around, like Daniel Arzani, Reno Piscopo, Nicholas D’Agostino, Ryan Strain, Harrison Delbridge, Denis Genreau and Connor Metcalfe will all be a part of the emerging generation and are further examples of the developmental production line that the A-League has become.
Sadly, there were more people at the live site in Federation Square in Melbourne than will attend Macarthur FC’s home fixture against Melbourne Victory this Sunday; highlighting the core issue of parlaying interest in football into interest in the A-League.
The Socceroos have done all they could have to prove to people that they SHOULD be believing in the competition, the standard of play and the quality of the players being produced.
If people actually soaked that in, the chasm between the 50-odd thousand fans turning up to A-League matches each week and the millions of football fans that tuned in to watch the Socceroos on SBS, could be somewhat lessened.