Milligan stands tall for the Socceroos


Mark Milligan has been to two World Cup finals and not played a minute. Expect that to change in his third appearance at Brazil 2014.

Expect that to change in his third appearance, after the midfielder played a vital hand in securing the Socceroos their spot in Brazil.

As Australia teetered in March with a home draw to Oman, Milligan sat on the bench. Career-best form with A-League club Melbourne Victory wasn't enough to earn him a place.

Thrown into the fray in the critical clash with Japan a fortnight ago, Milligan starred in holding midfield.

More of the same followed against Jordan in a 4-0 win in Melbourne last week.

In the 1-0 win over Iraq at a sodden ANZ Stadium, Milligan's first half work was vital in quelling Iraq's busy attack and keeping the Socceroos moving forward in a match they had to win.

At times a victim of his versatility - he can play anywhere in the back-four and in midfield - Milligan has been like a coiled spring waiting for his chance.

Now he's got it and taken it, the 27-year-old is eyeing a starting role in Brazil.

While the experience of going to two World Cups has been priceless, watching from the sideline at the business end has been tough at times.


"I really hope so (that I play in Brazil)," Milligan told AAP.

"It's a long time - a year's a very long time in football. It's another year away and my focus now turns to Melbourne.

"I need to go there, and have a very good season. If that doesn't happen, none of this is achievable for me."

Milligan's form has led to a big-money approach from UAE club Baniyas, and unconfirmed reports English Championship club Queens Park Rangers were scouting him in Sydney on Tuesday night.

But the midfielder and his young family are settled in Melbourne, and no one is more aware of Milligan's value to a team than Victory coach Ange Postecoglou.

Last October when Milligan was called up to a Socceroos training camp, Postecoglou spoke glowingly of the midfielder's selection and told reporters as an aside: "I think he will play a big role somewhere in this qualification campaign."

How right he was.

The Socceroos have not conceded a goal from open play in their last three qualifiers - Milligan's shielding work and cool head in front of the back-four crucial.

"Even when we hadn't scored, I actually felt very confident. It's a funny thing to say and not many people will understand this, but I really felt we had a goal in us," Milligan said.

"The biggest thing for us was to make sure we didn't concede.

"The last three games, it's really been the benchmark of what we've tried to achieve - keeping a clean sheet and working hard defensively."