As announced earlier this week, Alex Wilkinson will be a pivotal part of Ange Postecoglou’s plans to upset the odds in Asian football and win the 2015 Asian Cup on home soil.
The whirlwind season for the 30-year-old could get even better should he help secure an Asian Cup victory for the Socceroos. His experience in Asian football will be vital in helping the Socceroos advance past the group stage, especially against Wilkinson’s adopted nation of South Korea in the third and final match.
In the first part of our interview, we spoke to the defender about the latest stage of his career with Jeonbuk Motors. Now, our attention turns to his star turn with Australia’s national team.
You made the first-ever goal line clearance using goal line technology at the World Cup. Can you tell us what you remember from the incident, and are you in favor of goal line technology?
I don’t remember too much, actually. It all happened pretty quickly. I just remember Alexis Sanchez playing a ball in behind our back four. I turned to chase and realised that [Sanchez] was going to get to the ball before [Socceroos goalkeeper] Matthew Ryan. The Chilean striker chipped it but didn’t get much power behind it, and I remember thinking I might have a chance to get to the ball before it went in. I just lunged at the ball and luckily cleared it away. Looking back, I’m just happy I didn’t kick it into my own net or reflect it in off the post!
As for your second question, I am in favour of goal line technology. More and more sports are starting to use it now, so why shouldn’t football? We have seen so many big games decided by decisions that could be avoided by the use of goal line technology.
It must have been a dream to be picked for the World Cup squad, let alone start the first match against Chile. What was the experience like?
Like I said before, the World Cup was a dream come true. I grew up watching the World Cup every four years and marvelled at the players and teams. To actually be there and be a part of the tournament was pretty surreal; to start all three games was an amazing achievement for me and its something I am very proud of.
In all three of our games the Aussie support was amazing. To walk out into those packed stadiums and see so much green and gold was pretty special. The atmosphere around the whole country was like one giant party. The Brazilians love to dance and party and obviously love their football so it made for a great tournament.
The Socceroos are still very much in transition from the “Golden Generation” to the new side being assembled under Ange Postecoglou. Some have ranked you as outsiders for this January’s Asian Cup. Do you feel you have a chance to shock and go all the way?
Definitely. Yes, it has been a transition period for the national team over the past year. Ange has really made a point of giving lots of different players a chance to impress him and at the same time its exposing a lot of players to international football. This can only be a good thing moving forward. With each game we are improving, but there it still a lot for us to work on.
We will go into camp a few weeks before our first game, and that will give us time to be ready and firing come the first game on January 9. We are really looking forward to playing on home soil in front of our own fans; we’ve only played two games at home over the last 12 months so that will definitely work in our favour and we need to make sure we take advantage of playing the tournament at home.
Australia vs Korea will be playing in the final group match; do you think your knowledge of Korean football will help the side? What tactical advice would you give the coaching staff should they ask you?
I think my knowledge of Korean football may help a bit, and obviously I will know a lot of the players. Korea have gone through quite a few changes lately, with a new coach coming in after the World Cup. Lately they have had some good results against some good teams, so they are moving in the right direction. They are a very strong team with some good players playing in the top leagues of Europe, so I think they will be one of the main favorites to win the tournament.
It’s been nearly three years since you last played regularly on Aussie soil. How does it feel to go home to play this summer?
It will be great to be back playing in Australia again. It is a huge honour to play for your country, but when you can play at home in front of family and friends it makes it even more special.
Who do you see as the favorites to win the Asian Cup?
It’s a very open tournament this year. A lot of nations throughout Asia have improved dramatically in the last four years since Qatar 2011. Obviously Japan, Korea and Iran will have great opportunities, but as I said before a lot of the Gulf nations have improved far beyond most people’s expectations. They have some wonderfully talented players so I think they will all fancy their chances as well. It will be difficult to predict!