Brimming with calm assurance and boundless energy as one of six changes sprung by coach Ange Postecoglou, the all-action midfielder felt the world No.4 team were there for the taking on a night when the Socceroos produced everything bar the coup de grace.
“I think we had them by the throat and if we’d taken our changes late in the first half and early in the second,” said the Burton Albion man.
“We created a lot of openings, which is something that has been lacking (against Germany and Cameroon).
“We’re not happy to be going home but we more than held our own.
“We need a bit more of a ruthless streak … if we’d gone on to get that second goal we’d have put them to bed.
“The goal we conceded was a soft one (after James Troisi’s 42nd minute opener), but we are still learning.”
In tandem with the recalled Massimo Luongo as the holding midfielders, with Aaron Mooy dropped and Mark Milligan reverting to the back three, Irvine knew his chance would come at the tournament.
“It was my first game for Australia as a defensive midfielder,” he added.
“Everybody who came in wanted to show the boss they could contribute, and I thought we did that.
“He said he would make changes after the Cameroon game and had faith in us.
“Our energy held us in good stead for the way we approached the game.”
Defender Ryan McGowan, who left the stadium sporting stitches to an eye gash, was another who came in for his first start of the competition and dig deep to deliver a performance of both defiance and composure to help limit the impact of Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal.
“We are disappointed not to win but the results will come,” he said.
“We’ve slowly improved over the tournament,” added McGowan who played the final minutes with a bandage wrapped around his head to keep the blood from flowing.”
Milligan said it was a performance which “has been coming”.
“Hopefully people can see now the direction we are trying to head in,” he said.
“We are happy with the display but by no means are we going to rest on that.”