Although it was seven years ago, Ryan McGowan remembers the evening like it was yesterday.
It was November 16, 2005.
“I can remember all of it clearly - I was at my dad’s and my local team Ingle Farm Soccer Club,” McGowan recalls.
“I was in their club rooms, it was a school night as well so my mum gave me permission to go out with my younger brother and my dad and watch the game at our local club.
“When Schwarzer saves that penalty, and with John Aloisi being an Adelaide boy who scores the goal … it was something that will stay with me forever.”
The then-teenager from South Australia, who had not yet made an Australian team at any age, is now in camp alongside many of the same players he’d been cheering on that day.
“If someone had of said to me then that eight years on you’d be involved in the Socceroos, I would’ve said you’d had too many beers … so to now be on the same training pitch and eating meals together with them, it’s a dream come true.”
The first part of that dream was completed back in August when McGowan made his Socceroos debut in his adopted nation of Scotland, and now he’s hoping to become a regular part of the Australian set-up whilst learning from those he once admired from a distance.
“As a defender, Lucas Neill is a player I’ve looked up to since I was a boy,” McGowan said.
“He’s played in the Premier League and in two World Cups and 50 games for Australia as captain. His record is something I can only dream of achieving at such a young age, so to train and play with these guys is almost a dream come true.
“All of the young guys are watching and learning and taking in as much as we can but at the same time letting them know that we’re here and trying to make a name for ourselves and be the next lot that comes through and makes Australia successful.”
Yet, unlike many, the 23 year old cautions against making rash – and wholesale – changes merely for the sake of it.
“I think sometimes it’s easy to say that someone’s over it or someone needs to change, but everyone’s allowed a bad game or a bad performance. It’s only three games into this campaign so to be pushing the panic button just now is a little over the top I think.
“These senior players are not going to really listen to what the critics say or even the younger players. I’ve been involved in the game long enough to know that someone’s opinion doesn’t change the way we play.”
That involvement saw McGowan, the son of Scottish parents, leave South Australia as a 17-year-old to join Scottish Premier League club Hearts, where he made his first-team debut in 2008. Between loan spells at Ayr and Partick Thistle, he’s now chalked up more than 50 appearances for the “Jambos”.
“I’ve loved every minute being involved at such a great club like Hearts and it’s a great city (Edinburgh) to live in. It gave me a platform to get into the Socceroos squad and I’ve been lucky enough to play in Europe, I’ve played at White Hart Lane, at Anfield and won a Scottish Cup beating our local rivals 5-1.”
Capped at every Australian youth level, the challenge now is to become a regular Socceroos player and help push Australia towards Brazil 2014.
“The World Cup is a long way away and so many things can happen with injuries and so on, so I’ve just got to make sure that I’m playing well and try to get into the squads and make sure I do as well as I can and slowly push my way into the team.
“But, I mean you look at someone like Schwarzer getting his 100th cap the other week and I’ve only got one, so he’s been there and done that and I’ve got to pick his brains and watch and learn.”
Borussia Dortmund's Mustafa Amini is among a 26-man Australia U-20 squad selected for a European training camp this month that will include internationals against Netherlands and Germany.