From Germany to Brazil via South Africa, Mark Bresciano's FIFA World Cup™ journey has been a tale of plentiful highs and precious few lows. And now it looks to be over.
As things stand, the 34-year-old appears likely to join his fellow Socceroos veteran, Tim Cahill, in watching their final match against Spain from the sidelines. In Bresciano's case, it is injury that is jeopardising his involvement, with the midfielder tellingFIFA: "It's not looking too good.
"I'm very disappointed," he continued. "Leading up to the World Cup, I was struggling with my back and we've done everything possible to get it right. The medical staff have been brilliant and got me back on my feet. But when you have injuries, other problems start arising and it's hard to carry through the games. I didn't feel 100 per cent against the Dutch and things have been steadily progressing. We're still going to try do everything possible, but it looks like I could miss out."
The realisation that he has, in all likelihood, played his last World Cup match has led to Bresciano taking stock of his experiences. And while the tournament has, on occasion, brought him frustration and disappointment, the midfielder's prevailing feeling is one of gratitude.
"It's been a great honour," he said. "Growing up, I don't think I even dreamed of playing in a World Cup because Australia, at least when I was a kid, never made it to World Cups. You can just imagine then, playing in one World Cup, how much it meant. Now I've had that opportunity to represent my country in three different World Cups. It it's the best dream that I ever had, or could have had."
There is a touching sincerity in Bresciano's words as he reflects with pride and wonder on Australia's World Cup adventures. And though each edition has had its own unique characteristics and qualities, the midfielder has no hesitation in pinpointing his favourite.
"That would have to be 2006," he said. "It was the first time for all of us and emotions were flying everywhere. I was very excited to be there, and I didn't really know what to expect. The best moment of all was probably the game against Croatia, when Harry Kewell scored that goal to equalise, knowing that we were going to go through to the next stage. You know what though? I haven't ever watched the game back. I'm pretty sure I'm the one who crossed the ball into the box for the goal. I'm not sure what happened - maybe there was a little scuffle in the box or something - but it landed on Harry's foot and he just put it away."
That swing of Kewell's right boot has become enshrined in Aussie football folklore, and has been replayed countless times - though clearly not by Bresciano - in the years since. But while the Socceroos midfielder will never tire of reflecting on such magical moments, he is equally keen to look to a future that, under Ange Postecoglou, he expects to be bright.
He said: "Appointing an Aussie coach has been a good thing because, personally, I think we lost that Aussie spirit in the team, having so many different coaches from different countries. [Since Postecoglou's appointment] I think we've found the right spirit again and we're up and fighting. He's a very motivated man and I can see a great future for the Socceroos. We can see that we are still developing good players and we have proved in the last two games that we are competitive against some of the world's best teams."
As well as lavishing praise on Postecoglou, Bresciano also paid a warm tribute to a long-time colleague whose goals have once again illuminated the Aussies' World Cup campaign. Of Cahill, he said: "I've seen very few players with the hunger that he has. To score as many goals as he has you need that desire and hunger in front of goal - even in training. I think that he's very determined in everything he does. If he says he's going to do something, he'll do it, and in a very dedicated way. Basically, what you see on the pitch reflects the character he is off the pitch."
The same could be said of Bresciano, and Australia - bright future or otherwise - will undoubtedly be poorer without these two venerable veterans.