Wednesday 21 June 2017, 21:30

Captain Milligan and the rare treble

  • Mark Milligan joined an elite group to lead the Socceroos at a world tournament

  • Milligan has now captained Australia at three major tournaments

  • The Socceroos face a crucial encounter with Cameroon on Thursday

By Pete Smith with Australia

Back in 2003, an 18-year-old Mark Milligan cut a disconsolate figure on the training ground sidelines in the shadows of Sydney’s Olympic Stadium. The teenager had been just been informed his knee injury was in fact a torn ligament, meaning a dream trip to the FIFA U-20 World Cup was in tatters.

It was a cruel blow for a teenager, doubly so given the injury came literally on the eve of the team’s departure. Who knew if it would be his only shot at glory? After all, it proved to be the case for many of his Young Socceroos' team-mates.

Despite that, or perhaps because of it, Milligan has made every post a winner. Milligan, along with Tim Cahill, is the only Australian player to feature in three FIFA World Cup™ squads.

On Monday in Sochi, Milligan donned the captain’s armband in place of the injured Mile Jedinak to lead Australia out in the team’s FIFA Confederations Cup opener against Germany. In the process he joined an elite eight-man club to have captained Australia at a major tournament. Milligan’s name now sits alongside the likes of Mark Viduka, Lucas Neill, Paul Okon and Socceroos’ 1974 World Cup cult hero Peter Wilson.

Unlikely feat In doing so, Milligan completed a rare treble. He also skippered Australia at the 2008 Olympic Football Tournament, and at the 2005 FIFA U-20 World Cup - the latter appointment made by current Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou.

“To represent your country is always extremely exciting, but to captain this group of boys at a tournament like this is a great honour,” said Milligan.

Australia head into the first-ever match against Cameroon knowing they need a point – and likely a win – if they are to stay alive in the competition. The challenge for the Socceroos is to bounce back from an opening 3-2 defeat against Germany, a match marked by a disastrous opening 45 minutes and conceding goals early in each period.

Nevertheless there are positives for an Australian side who are dogmatic in adhering to their attacking playing style, regardless of the opponent. Last Monday’s match in Sochi was the first time Germany had conceded twice since being knocked out of UEFA EURO by France this time last year.

“We didn’t start well, but we finished strongly so we take confidence from the way we finished the match,” said Milligan.

“Cameroon are a good side and played very well against Chile. They had some very good moments against Chile, and were unlucky not to get on the scoresheet. They will be a little bit of a different challenge to Germany.”