Professional Footballers Australia has called on fans to continue to back the Socceroos in the next phase of FIFA World Cup qualification after last night’s 2-1 defeat of Thailand was not enough for direct qualification through the Group Stage.

“Nobody will be more disappointed this morning than the players and the support staff. They have invested the last three years of their lives in reaching the goal of direct qualification and to miss it so narrowly hurts deeply”, said PFA Chief Executive, John Didulica.

“We have an emerging group of players who, for the most part, are still growing and establishing themselves as seasoned international footballers. Russia 2018 is still alive and we should be excited at what awaits at the end of the next four matches.”

“Qualifying for a World Cup is not easy. It’s never been easy and the mythology around the Socceroos is as much about the drama of trying to qualify as it is about reaching the big dance. We went 32 years without being there and we’ve managed to qualify for the past three, invariably with a high dose of drama mixed in. So, really, nothing changes over the next two months.”

Didulica said the next phase of qualification speaks to the unique and enriching character of international football, which Australians should embrace and celebrate.

“To host Syria in a match of this magnitude gives the Australian public an opportunity to be an eyewitness to one of the great stories in sport.

“Qualifying through Asia throws up with these wonderful stories and presents challenges which are so varied and often exciting. Every nation in the region is improving exponentially as investment grows, ensuring the very best nations – like Japan and Saudi Arabia – are imposing opponents and the so-called minnows are narrowing the gap, as is happening the world over.”