Australia’s World Cup heroes hope their surprise run to the last 16 will transform football at home after they went down fighting in a 2-1 defeat to a Lionel Messi-inspired Argentina.

It was only the second time that the Socceroos had got this far at the tournament and there was a sense of pride after being edged out in Qatar on Saturday to one of the pre-World Cup favourites.

Attacking midfielder Riley McGree, who plays in England with second-tier Middlesbrough said: “Just be proud, hold our heads high with what we’ve done here and hopefully inspired generations to come.”

“To do what we’ve done, you could say it’s ground-breaking and moving forward it’s only going to be good for the sport in the country,” the 24-year-old added.

Graham Arnold’s squad matched the “golden generation” from the 2006 World Cup of Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka in reaching the last 16.

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