SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - When Australian goalkeeper Mathew Ryan asked his family if anyone wanted to come and watch him play in the World Cup in Russia, there was an enthusiastic response - from 27 of them.
On Tuesday they will all be cheering him on as Australia take on Peru in Group C in Sochi in a bid to qualify for the last 16. The team currently sit in third in the group with one draw from two games, behind France with six points and Denmark with four.
“I asked the family members if they were interested and able to come across and (27) said yes and half are still at home. That’s a little bit better for the bank account, I guess,” said a deadpan Ryan.
Ryan revealed he was covering the travel expenses for a group that included a three-year old cousin at one extreme and a grandfather in his 70S at the other.
“It was designed so it would become a life-long memory for all of us involved. There is nothing better than being able to treat your family well and look after them,” he added.
“A World Cup doesn’t come round very often so the chance to share something like this was a no-brainer.”
If the Socceroos beat already-eliminated Peru, and if Denmark lose to France on Tuesday, then Australia could sneak through to the knockout stages. Australia are in their fifth World Cup but have progressed from their group only once before, in 2006 in Germany.
The Brighton and Hove Albion keeper remains confident of success - and is hoping his hotel bills will keep rising for a few more days.
“We’re focussing on us and what we need to do,” he said. “If we don’t go out and do the job we need to do then there is no point in thinking about France.
“If we are successful in achieving that then we and the whole nation of Australia are going to remember that achievement for the rest of our lives. That would mean the absolute world to me.”
Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Tony Lawrence