Socceroos midfielder Mark Bresciano has certainly seen his share of competition at the top-level representing Australia at two FIFA World Cups™, a FIFA Confederations Cup and a FIFA U-20 World Cup, not to mention featuring at an Olympic Football Tournament, an AFC Asian Cup and an OFC Nations Cup.
And the 32-year-old’s club career is no less impressive. After moving to Empoli at the tender age of 19, Bresciano played more than 300 games for four different teams in Serie A and Serie B, before leaving Italy and moving to the Middle East. A short stint in UAE with Al Nasr then precipitated a move to Qatar giants Al Gharrafa this season.
Enough for any player one might think, but Bresciano wants more. In an exclusive interview with FIFA.com, this unassuming lynchpin of the Australia side spoke about his career in Italy, and his desire to help the Socceroos overcome a rocky start and get back on track in Brazil 2014 qualifying to reach a third successive FIFA World Cup.
FIFA.com: You spent a long time in Italy, almost 12 years. What are your most abiding memories of that part of your career and how has football changed over that period?
Mark Bresciano: I’ve got wonderful memories from every club I played for. I loved the time I spent in Italy, both the football and the lifestyle. Most of my career has been spent out there. As for the game changing, well it’s changed a lot since I first arrived at Empoli, which might be down to problems with the economy. Most of the star players have left the Italian league and so the quality declined. But when Italy won the World Cup in 2006 it proved that Serie A was still one of the best leagues in the world.
In 2007 you were on the verge of signing for Manchester City. Given the success the Blues have had in the Premier League last season do you regret the fact you couldn’t join them?
Put it like this. I was pretty upset when the deal fell through, but I believe in fate. I believe that things happen for a reason and I’m not the kind of guy to chew over the past and wonder what might have been. I pressed on and right now I’m enjoying my football and very happy with my career.
What differences have you noticed between European football and the game in Asia, given that last season you played in the AFC Champions League for Al Nasr?
It’s a very small difference but an important one. In Europe there’s a lot more interest in the leagues. The best players in the world are playing there and so the game is different: it’s more competitive. Now that doesn't mean that Asian football is weak. The leagues are very competitive and it’s not easy, despite what some people think. Football over here demands a lot of a player.
These days there is no huge difference between the sides [in Asia]. There are only little things that separate them.
You have played in two FIFA World Cups for Australia. The first time, four points was enough to see you qualify from the group stages, but things were different in South Africa. Why was that?
In South Africa it came down to goal difference. We had conceded a lot of goals, particularly in our opening game when Germany beat us 4-0. I think things would have been different if we’d played better in that match. We would have been more likely to qualify. In 2006 we also got four points but we conceded fewer goals. There’s your difference.
After South Africa 2010 you left international football for a couple of years before returning to the national team. Why did you take that break and how did it help you?
I’d decided that after South Africa 2010 I was going to rest up, because I wasn’t in the best physical condition and I had picked up a few injuries that were bothering me. The break was a chance to recuperate and rediscover my enthusiasm. When the time was right, I got myself in shape and rejoined the team. I’d like to thank Holger Osieck, the coach, for giving me the opportunity to come back and be part of the side.
Once you returned you started playing in the Asian qualifiers for Brazil 2014. How confident of qualifying are you, given the Socceroos’ slow start to the fourth round?
Well one point from the last two games is certainly not good enough. We have to get three points from our next game to keep our hopes of getting to Brazil alive.
Which of the teams in your qualifying group pose the biggest threat?
These days there is no huge difference between the sides. There are only little things that separate them. Every team is a threat because every team we face is trying to beat us. We have to focus on each and every game. Our goal is to qualify for Brazil 2014 and we’ll take it however it comes, even if it means finishing second in the group.
How badly do you want to play at Brazil 2014 - potentially your third successive appearance at a FIFA World Cup?
When I was a boy I never dreamed that one day I'd be playing in just one World Cup. How do think I’d feel if I got to play in three? Taking part in Brazil 2014 is a massive opportunity for us all and something we are all desperate to achieve.