In many ways Australia have been losers, albeit gallant ones, in this edition of the FIFA Confederations Cup, but in many ways they have been winners. Before the tournament began, the general view of the German public was that they were simply here to make up the numbers, that they stood no chance of qualifying and that they would be convincingly beaten by the hosts and Argentina in their opening two games.
However, due to their well-documented qualities of hard-work, pride, passion and team-spirit, the Socceroos have swiftly established themselves as the surprise package of the tournament, even though they have little to show for it. Despite a brave comeback in their opening match in Frankfurt, they were edged out 4-3 by the Nationalmannschaft, while they gave Argentina a scare in Nuremberg before eventually losing by four goals to two.
However, those who witnessed the games have agreed that Australia's entertaining, if not fruitless comebacks have been as a result of their qualities, rather than the deficiencies of the Germany and Argentina teams. "It was close at times," admitted Argentina coach Jose Pekerman after the game. "It's not always possible to keep up the same high level throughout the entire match and our opponents had excellent players. They were wearing us down physically. But we didn't rest. We did what was possible and scored another goal at the end."
German icon Michael Ballack agreed: "The Australians are very robust and it was a very tough match for us. I don't think we matched them in certain areas and they caused us a lot of problems. I think we had difficulties coping with them and we should have done more to stop them, but it was very difficult to do that. Although the second half went well for us, the Australian team were strong and dynamic."
They have not only impressed the opposition, the members of FIFA's Technical Study Group, but football fans all over the world. In a poll for FIFAworldcup.com which has been voted on by almost 10,000 people around the globe asking: 'Which team has surprised you the most?' Australia are currently lying in second place behind Brazil.
In short, they have won plenty of friends, but not enough matches, which is a point that coach Frank Farina readily concedes: "If someone would say 'you'll score five goals against Argentina and Germany' you'd be surprised. And you'd think you'd have something. But we have nothing. If we are to be successful we have to avoid making silly mistakes. If you're conceding that many goals you'll never win a game, especially against opponents like Germany and Argentina."
Their achievement is made all the more remarkable when you consider that the last time the Oceania outfit played on German soil in the FIFA World Cup of 1974, they failed to register a goal. "Australian goals in Germany are now being compared to Sydney buses," said one journalist following the Socceroo side. "We don't score in 30 years and then five come along almost at once!"
They will be hoping that the scoring streak continues in their final group game against Tunisia in Leipzig's Zentralstadion on Tuesday. A draw will be enough to give Australia third place in the group, but you can bet that they will be going out to finish on a high. Right-back Kevin Muscat said: "This tournament has given us something to work on in the future. Every game in the Confederations Cup is a great preparation for our qualifying matches for next year's World Cup. Now we want to win our final match."
Those comments were echoed by talismanic midfielder Tim Cahill who summed up the Aussies' approach to the final game: He exclaimed: "Although we cannot qualify for the semi-finals, it is not over for us. In the end we have been very unlucky. But we have learnt a lot during this competition and football has learnt that Australia never give up." Very few who have watched the Socceroos in this summer's FIFA Confederations Cup would argue with that.