THE GOLDEN GENERATION’S WORLD CUP SWANSONG 2010
For so long the whipping boy for Socceroos fans, Brett Holman was the star of the show in South Africa. He bookended 2010’s World Cup campaign with Australia’s first and last goals, wrapping up a formidable shift with a classic long-distance screamer agai
QUALIFICATION What are your memories of the qualification process?
We did it really well. It was a couple of games before the end that we qualified. And we didn’t even concede a goal. Pim Verbeek had a certain awareness of the Asian style, obviously, because he was involved with Guus Hiddink and South Korea. You saw that he had the awareness of what to do, how to set up and stuff like that.
There was one game, I think it was in Bahrain, where it was a proper smash-and-grab. Mark Bresciano scored in the last minute. I think it was a long ball. It was an absolute steal. We were like, let’s quickly pack up before this gets turned around, because it was just a bad game from everybody and we ended up nicking it.
Did you ever think Australia wouldn’t make it?
No. Just with the team, the squad that we had, some players went through that German World Cup and were so full of confidence. You could see that and feel that. There was no doubting it at all that we were going to make that World Cup.
What did it feel like in the moment when qualification was in the bag?
We drew 0-0 with Qatar and in the dressing rooms afterwards they had non-alcoholic champagne that we sprayed around, obviously, because it was in a Middle Eastern country. It wasn’t much of a game. I definitely remember that.
PREPARING FOR SOUTH AFRICA What was the vibe in the host country?
It was full of energy, full of life. Everybody was excited. South Africa hosting was a big thing. When we first arrived, we were warmly welcomed. The set-up where we ended up doing our pre-training camp was great, which was fantastic for us and obviously credit to our organisation. A great feeling when we got there.
How did the locals take to Australia?
Perfect. Especially when we were walking around the streets and the shopping malls, all the people were friendly. They actually enjoyed us walking around, there was that element of the security stuff in Johannesburg but we saw nothing violent or worthy of having the security there at all. They were just excited they were seeing all the different nations walking around.
IT WAS A DREAM COME TRUE – TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN SORT OF STUFF FOR ME. IT WAS THE PINNACLE OF MY CAREER.
How were the training facilities?
We were in the outskirts of Jo’burg. The FFA ended up contributing to a field there, actually building a facility out there where we ended up training. Afterwards I think they gave it to a school or a community organisation. It was all top-notch as you’d expect at a World Cup, and we stayed at a very nice lodge next to a game reserve.
What was the mood of the team like?
Good. Everybody was raring to go – excited, but with the expectation of what the majority of the squad did in Germany, the expectations were high from those players.
THE MATCHES What was it like hearing the anthem before the first match?
I was just pretty much realising that while I wasn’t on the pitch starting, I’ve accomplished a dream. If you think back, I remember Australia versus Iran with Terry Venables and pretty much thinking Australia’s never going to get to a World Cup. And then to actually be there and play, that was amazing.
Which was the toughest match?
Germany, first-up. It was disappointing. You go down to 10 men and that’s what made it a lot more difficult. Even with 11 men, they were dominant anyway. We learned a lot from that first game, especially when we went down to 10 men against Ghana and you saw how well-structured we were. We weren’t doing that against Germany – with 10 men, we were still trying to go and attack and nick a goal. Looking back, it should have just been damage control.
Your best moment on the field?
The goal against Serbia was obviously good but the first one against Ghana was the best – just because it was the first time I was starting, and it was the first goal for Australia at that World Cup.
And the worst?
Not qualifying for the second round. Just looking back, knowing that if things went a little bit different, a little bit our way, we had the team to actually progress. That comes down to Germany, they’re a big side. No matter who you play at that level, you go down to 10 men in two games and you’re making it hard for yourself no matter who you are.
Your best moment off the field?
When my wife told me she was pregnant with our first child. The first time I saw her was before the first game. She had just found out. Travelling to Johannesburg, she was nice and sick on the flight.
And the worst?
Packing up after the last game, knowing we weren’t going to the second round. We were staying at an amazing resort where we had our own little cabins and huts and saying goodbye to that, and to the people who worked there, you got to know them on a daily basis. That wasn’t nice.
What about the funniest moment?
There was a couple. Han Berger got his guitar out at one point and did a sing-song. None of the boys really knew the song, no-one could get involved. Nobody even knew he could play.
What’s your lasting memory of the 2010 World Cup?
The vuvuzelas still are ringing in my ear. But it was a dream come true – top of the mountain sort of stuff for me. It was the pinnacle of my career.