One man’s loss is another man’s gain. Ryan McGowan played the part of the latter in Cuiaba, with Ivan Franjic the unfortunate former. The Australia No2 provided a fine assist for Tim Cahill’s header against Chile before hobbling off injured.
McGowan came on just after half-time. A crunching challenge on Eduardo Vargas and a brave block were contributions to a sterling performance from the big 24-year-old. Now, after tests revealed Franjic had torn a hamstring and ruled him out of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, McGowan finds himself as Ange Postecoglou’s first-choice right-back.
Here, the Shandong Luneng man tells FIFA how he feels for Franjic, discusses seizing his opportunity, and salutes the Socceroos’ showing against Chile and the confidence it will give them as they prepare for battle against the Netherlands.
FIFA: Ryan, no-one likes to come on for an injured colleague, obviously, but you certainly grabbed your opportunity with both hands. Ryan McGowan: Obviously it's unfortunate circumstances for me to come on with Franjic getting injured. Everyone is just devastated for him with the injury, but the boss had said before the game that he wanted everyone ready and the 23-man squad to be ready, so that's why I made sure I had a good warm-up at half time and mentally prepared myself for the possibility, so that if I did come on I could grab the opportunity.
How did you find settling into the pace of the game?
Obviously it's very fast-paced and you have to sort of get up with it as quickly as possible really, because everyone's in the flow of the game. But I thought I had a good couple of tackles, a good couple of passes, and it really settled me into the game. We were on top as well. We were on top most of the second half, which made it a little bit easier because I didn't have too much defending to do. But overall I'm just delighted to get on the pitch.
Australia gave a good account of themselves, but struggled in the first 20 minutes. Was it a case of Chile playing really well or Australia playing poorly?
I think it was a little bit of both. I think Chile started well. Their passing was crisp. Their touches were really good, and a little bit of nerves played into us as well, which is to be expected. For a lot of the boys it was a first a start in a first-ever World Cup. But I think after that, the way we handled ourselves… we could have crumbled, we could have folded quite easily. I think everyone would have expected that but we stuck to what the boss has been wanting us to do and I think we showed everyone that we can play a little bit as well.
You ran a very good side very close. How much confidence will that give you heading into the Netherlands game?
I think this just proves what we've all been believing as a squad and the boss has been drilling it into us: to really believe. I think going out there and doing it on the biggest stage really gave us a lot more confidence and a lot of self-belief that we can do it. No-one likes playing under pressure. It doesn't matter who you play. We are all at a World Cup and no-one wants to make mistakes. You want to make sure that you are putting them under pressure and making sure that you're sticking to the principles that we play with, hoping to get a good result. Nobody gave Australia much of a chance at all in this group.
The Australia players looked gutted as they walked off the pitch.
Yes, obviously we were very disappointed. At 2-1 I think we dominated, we had a goal [ruled out for] offside, we had [Mark] Bresciano's shot. We were putting them under a lot of pressure, it wasn't as if we were just holding out. I think the boss said last night if we got a second, I believe we probably would have got a third. They were really on the ropes. I think even the way they celebrated the third goal showed you how much they were panicking and really stressed about getting a draw in it. If anyone before the game or after 20 minutes said we'd be devastated to come off the pitch losing, I think everybody would have been shocked and surprised. But like we said before, the boss has really got us going and playing a style of play that we're all sort of really into and hopefully [there's] much more to come.
Finally, what did your coach say to you afterwards in the dressing room?
He didn’t really say much to be honest. He doesn't say too much after the game. He just said that he was proud of how we played and that we really stuck to the principles, didn’t start [playing the long-ball game] and didn’t chuck the towel in. It showed a lot of courage from us to keep playing the way we wanted to play and really put them on the back foot for large spells of the second half.