It’s fair to say Bailey Wright’s career has come a long way in the past four years. Few knew of Wright when the defender was named in the Socceroos’ 2014 FIFA World Cup™ squad.
Since then Wright has tallied over 20 international caps and was a regular figure during Australia’s long and arduous road to Russia 2018. Wright has also flourished at club level, captaining English Championship side Bristol City during a strong campaign, highlighted by two epic League Cup semi-finals against Manchester City – running the Premier League champions close on both occasions.
Wright, however, has unsolved business. He failed to get on the pitch at Brazil 2014, and missed selection for Australia’s memorable maiden AFC Asian Cup win in 2015. Now, after experiencing a taste of Russia last year at the FIFA Confederations Cup, Wright is hungry to fulfil a childhood dream and feature at the upcoming World Cup.
“To have an experience of a World Cup is something you can’t really put into words,” Wright told FIFA.com. “After getting a taste of it in Brazil, now I want to go one step further.
“I want to play in a World Cup and win. The aim is to stay fit and stay prepared and be part of the squad that goes to Russia.”
Primarily used as a central defender for the Socceroos, Wright also has extensive experience at fullback at club level. The Melbourne-born Wright played in 12 of Australia’s World Cup qualifiers, including both legs of the tense intercontinental play-off against Honduras.
As one of the more experienced members of a relatively young Australia squad, Wright’s knowledge and skillset could prove valuable to new coach Bert van Marwijk.
“I look back at it now and see how far I have developed at club and international level,” Wright said, looking back to where he was ahead of Brazil 2014.
“I feel much more prepared for a World Cup compared to then. My experience of Brazil and throughout the qualifiers, hopefully that puts me in good stead.”
World Cup memories
Wright speaks with a dose of emotion when he recalls his experiences at the last World Cup. “One of my great memories from Brazil was the Opening Match and the streets being completely bare when Brazil played. It felt like the whole country was watching the game. When they scored, everyone went crazy, there were fireworks and people running around the streets. I thought ‘this is a World Cup’, that is when it really felt real to me.”
Closer to home, Wright was just 13 when Australia broke a 32-year World Cup drought and qualified for Germany 2006. Wright says the Class of 2006 created a lasting impression, one that the current crop of players want to emulate.
“I remember (Australia) qualifying very well, it was so emotional,” Wright said. “Friends and family were all watching and I remember jumping around the living room when [John] Aloisi scored that penalty. It was a turning point for Australian football.
Australia will face a diverse set of opponents in Russia after being drawn to face France, Peru and Denmark. “Hopefully we can create something special and memorable [in Russia] that everyone can look back upon and say that was the next step that Australian football took.”
The Australian players were dealt an unexpected hurdle following qualification with the resignation of Ange Postecoglou. The Socceroos are now just two games into the reign of Van Marwijk, the wily veteran coach who lead his native Netherlands to the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final.
“As footballers we have to adapt and learn quickly,” said Wright. “And you could see how far we came in a few days between the Norway (4-1 defeat) and Colombia (0-0 draw) matches. It shows what we are capable of under the new management.”