The Socceroos’ No.1 goalkeeper Mat Ryan has promised not to be overawed by the prospect of denying the world’s best strikers at next month’s World Cup in Brazil.
Ryan has just five senior caps but is widely viewed as Australia’s best young goalkeeper, and the heir apparent to fill the enormous vacancy left by Mark Schwarzer’s international retirement.
He will have to live up to that billing if the Socceroos are to have any chance of claiming points against Chile, the Netherlands or Spain, but the confident custodian is relishing the chance to test himself against the best.
“I don’t think you’d be human if you didn’t think about the types of names you’re coming up against,” he said. “In saying that, there’s no time to be in awe of them. If I’ve got the likes of [Robin] van Persie coming down on goal, I can’t really stop and go ‘Oh, who’s that?’
“I’ll be doing my best just to stay focused and, hopefully, not allow him or any of the other players I’ll be facing to put the ball past me when I’m out on the field.”
Ryan said that approach was very much in the minds of the players, driven by coach Ange Postecoglou, who has asked his team to have “no fear” in June.
“That’s the message the boss has been putting to us in the meetings we’ve had. He wants us to be courageous and brave,” Ryan said. “He’s filling us with confidence and saying there’s no reason why we can’t go out there and be competitive. Obviously our backs are against the wall a little bit but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we have to treat it like that. I’m sure every player is eager and keen to give it their best.”
Ryan has made a stunning transition to life in Europe with Club Bruges, being named the Belgium league’s top keeper.
At times, the 22-year-old still can’t comprehend his rise from the youth team at Central Coast to the elite of domestic and international football.
“Just before I left I started being in [international] contention and now I’ve gone over to Belgium, I’m enjoying my football and now there’s a really big possibility of playing at a World Cup,” he said. “It’s hard to imagine it going any better. If I hadn’t gone over, I’d be on more of a level playing field with the other guys. But being overseas has given me an extra advantage.”
Ryan said being tasked with the No.1 jersey for his club made him ready for the responsibilities that would come should, as expected, he be between the posts in Brazil.
“This year, there were a lot of young guys [at Club Bruges],” he said. “The Belgian league is notorious for giving a lot of young guys a go. I felt like I had to take a more senior role from the beginning with a young back line.”
So successful has Ryan been in Belgium, he’s been linked with a move to Real Madrid – as revealed by his one-time coach, Graham Arnold.
“I was cursing a little bit when I first saw it,” he said. “I was asleep, woken up, went to training and checked my phone at a traffic light. I quickly learnt that Arnie had mentioned it and I asked him about it and he said he’d been in contact with an agent in Europe that had said a Real Madrid scout had mentioned my name.
“But I’m not getting caught up in that. I’ll keep working hard. It’s business as usual.”
Ryan’s ex-Central Coast teammate Oliver Bozanic only joined in the squad activities after arriving on Tuesday and has a tougher job of forcing his way into the final 23.
Known in Australia as a left-sided midfielder, Bozanic has been playing in attacking and defensive midfield roles for his new Swiss club, FC Luzern.
“It just worked out perfectly that it happened in a World Cup year. I think it was very fortunate for my Socceroos career,” he said. “I’ve just come in, I have a few days to train and prepare for the first game, and that’s all I can do really; to prove myself for the World Cup with the remaining time before the games.”
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