A remarkable international career has seen Australia’s goal-scoring midfielder Mark Bresciano play in three FIFA World Cup™ finals, as well as featuring at a FIFA U-20 World Cup and the 2000 Men's Olympic Football Tournament, and gracing the Italian Serie A at club level. However, at the age of 34 he is not weighing up retirement options just yet, but instead driven by the lessons learnt at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. Always one to contemplate for a moment before a considered answer, Bresciano will see his career come full circle when he represents his country at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup on home soil this January.
A decade and a half after pulling on the Socceroos shirt at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, he has called on his teammates to deal well with the pressure of an expectant home crowd.
“Sometimes playing on home soil can be a bit tricky, because the expectations are higher,” Bresciano told FIFA.com. “There could be more pressure for teams, like you saw in Brazil for the home team [at this summer's World Cup]. A lot of people would have thought it was a good chance for them to win, but it didn’t work out. I think that’s because the team feels the pressure, they have the whole country behind them, wanting them to win.”
After pushing eventual semi-finalists Netherlands hard at the this summer's finals in Brazil in a memorable 3-2 group stage defeat, Bresciano believes the new-look Australia squad has the potential to reach for the continental title playing at home: “For us as Australians, we just have to take the advantage of playing at home and knowing that we are a very hard team to beat in Australia – I can’t remember the last time we lost at home. So we’re going to take that advantage to the Asian Cup, and hopefully we can get to the final.”
The former Parma midfielder currently plays his club football in Qatar with Al Gharafa SC, and feels that teams from the Middle East are rapidly developing and feeling the inspirational effect of having a World Cup coming up in their ‘back yard’.
“Over the past few years I have seen an improvement in the Qatari players. I think they are starting to believe in themselves more. Also knowing now that they are getting the World Cup in 2022 they are starting to feel like Qatar is also a footballing nation and they can do it. They have the chance to play at a World Cup, so that is important in any athlete, having a dream and a goal. That has sunken in to them, and made their potential and ability come out.”
Describing his own inspiration as a youngster, starting to play football in Melbourne, Australia, Bresciano said: “It was watching Italian football on TV, as well as watching players like [Diego] Maradona and [Roberto] Baggio. They were my inspiration back in my time, and then having two brothers and playing football with them in my back yard.”
After representing his country 77 times and notching 13 goals, Bresciano said his first World Cup appearance was still especially important – both personally and for his nation: “For me personally it was a dream, for every player playing football it is the maximum you can reach to play in a World Cup. What I love about the World Cup is that regardless of what is happening in the world – war, religion, beliefs, everything is forgotten, and everyone comes together to enjoy the celebration of football. I think in 2006 it was a time when Australia marked their spot in the world for their footballing ability. Before that Australia was not recognised much as a footballing nation, obviously because in Australia we have other sports that are probably above football, like rugby, cricket, and Australian football. So in 2006 out at the World Cup we got the attention out there in the world and people saw that Australia can also play football.”
With another major tournament – and another opportunity – now just around the corner, the creative midfielder has already stated that he will continue to play for his country even after Australia 2015 as his competitive edge and love for the game continue to drive him.
“I wish I could still play (until 2022). I was just watching the video (of the Qatar Foundation Stadium design) thinking – I wish I was born ten years later, so I had the possibility to play here in the World Cup in Qatar. But I don’t think I will be able to get there now, no,” he said with a smile.
Bresciano added that those criticising the tournament should make the effort to visit the country and the region and get to know the plans: “I think the reason behind that is people are not here, they haven’t seen the country, they haven’t seen the plans, how it’s going to be developed. A lot of these people who have negative thoughts don’t have inside information, they think Qatar and the Middle East is just what they think it is. They haven’t seen the development behind it and how it has been developed in the last couple of years. So for me living here, I have a different view about it, I have seen what it is capable of doing, and what will happen in 2022, so I have a totally different view of it and I think it will be a very successful World Cup.”