A gruelling qualifying route reaches a crescendo tomorrow night when Ange Postecoglou’s side take the field at Melbourne’s AAMI Park.
It’s been 17 matches and 27 months since the Socceroos’ road to Russia began in the unlikely venue of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
On that night, goals from Mile Jedinak and Tommy Oar ensured a first-up Australian victory.
The Socceroos have every right to be weary given their travels, but Irvine says the group as hungry as ever.
“We want this so much,” he said.
There’s been no shortage of criticism for the Socceroos result in Japan – a 2-0 loss that means they must wait for the Saudi Arabia-Japan match to learn if they have qualified for the 2018 tournament, even if they defeat the Thais handily in Melbourne.
Whatever the criticism, Irvine says criticising Australia’s endeavour is off-limits.
“When people talk about getting to a World Cup, people talk about it as if the players aren’t desperate to be there,” he said.
“I don’t think people understand the desperation we have.
“I don’t think people understand how hard it hits us when we don’t win these games. It really hits us.”
Irvine – who swapped clubs in England’s second-tier Championship this week – said his passion to make it back to the World Cup came from first-hand experience.
From the stands, that is.
“I was at the Japan game in ’06 in Kaiserslautern. That’s the dream. That’s all we want,” he said.
The 24-year-old said there was complete belief in Postecoglou’s system and tactics to get them back on the world stage.
“The players fully believe in what we’re trying to do here,” he said.
“We’re still taking the ball in tight areas and playing the way we know how to play and the way we want to play. We want to be this team.
“If we didn’t believe we could get there doing what we’re doing, there would be (change).
“Just because we dominate the ball more and there’s not as much fighting as previous teams, it doesn’t take anything away from the desperation we all have.
“Believe me, I’ve been a part of this long enough now to understand it exists in every single player here.”
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