Brett Holman has been a regular in the Australia squad since his debut in 2006, and while he has accumulated well over 30 caps, most have been earned as a substitute.
Then came the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, where Holman impressed with both his work-rate and technical ability, while also managing to double his international goal tally. Crucial strikes, firstly against Ghana, and then a spectacular long-range effort against Serbia, saw the 26-year-old catapulted to fame Down Under.
The Sydneysider’s star has also long been on the rise at club level. A number of Australians have plied their trade in the Dutch Eredivisie over the years but none have done so for as long as Holman, who is enjoying his ninth season in the Netherlands. Four years at humble Rotterdam club Excelsior were followed by a two-term stint at NEC Nijmegen, but the crowning glory has been helping AZ Alkmaar achieve long-awaited title success and, with it, UEFA Champions League football.
Holman tells FIFA.com about his continued growth as a footballer for both club and country, his experiences at South Africa 2010 and his thought’s on January’s AFC Asian Cup, a tournament in which he says Australia are aiming to excel.
FIFA.com: How is the season going with AZ and can the club go close to repeating their 2009 Eredivisie title success?
Brett Holman: We have lost some of our good players but we have a good team and we are doing really well at the moment. The title might be too big an ask, but we will definitely look to stay in the top five and reach the Europa League, or with a bit of luck the Champions League.
What was it like to win the 2009 title at a club that have waited so long for success?
I had mixed feelings from a personal perspective as I didn’t play as much as I am doing now. It was my first year here and it was a big achievement for the club. I did play a play a part and scored a couple of goals. But you want to more involved and make a bigger contribution. It was definitely a good party!
How was the experience of playing in the UEFA Champions League last season?
It was an unbelievable experience and a great learning curve. We were a little bit unlucky to be honest. We conceded goals in the last minute twice and if we won those two games we would have been through from the group phase. But we ended up with nothing.
Australia are currently preparing for January’s AFC Asian Cup, which didn’t go well in many ways last time in 2007. Is that something the team is especially keen to atone for?
Last time I think we didn’t understand how tough it was going to be in what was our first time in the Asian Cup. I don’t think we underestimated it but it was a lot tougher than we actually thought, but now we have had that first challenge and we know what to expect. We need to do better and can do better.
Australia obviously started disappointingly at South Africa 2010 but how did you view the campaign overall?
I think we deserved more than we got. Aside from the Germany game we performed really well. We showed everybody around the world what Australia stands for and that is our fighting spirit. Coming back from such a defeat, and doing what we did, I believe was a success in itself.
Personally, did it feel like you took your Socceroo career to another level in South Africa?
I don’t think much changed, it was more that everything fell for me at that moment. I was feeling really good, I was feeling really fit and a lot of confidence was going through my body at that time.
How did it feel when the goal against Serbia went in, and how did that rate in terms of career goals?
To be honest it was a great goal, but even though the Ghana goal wasn’t the most spectacular goal it will stay with me the longest because it was my first ever goal in a World Cup. That will stay with me forever. To get just one goal in a World Cup is amazing, let alone two.
How gratifying was it to be on the field at a FIFA World Cup and scoring goals among the world’s elite?
You work so hard to try and do the right things over so many years so when these sort of things happen you think to yourself, ‘All the hard work has paid off’. It is definitely a great feeling.