As Eintracht Frankfurt prepare to play their first European final in 42 years when they face Rangers on Thursday morning at 5am (AEST), Socceroos midfielder Ajdin Hrustic is ready to shine on the big stage.
When Hrustic left Melbourne as a 14-year-old to chase a professional football career, he could have only dreamed of playing in a major European final. And with stops in England and Austria, Holland and Germany along the way, it has not exactly been straightforward.
But as his Eintracht Frankfurt side prepare to face off against Scottish giants Rangers in Thursday’s UEFA Europa League final, Hrustic is on the cusp of realising that dream.
If the 25-year-old is to take to the field, he will become the fifth Socceroo to appear in a European final.
While Hrustic is proud of all he has accomplished so far in his young career, he is still coming to terms with the magnitude of his latest achievement.
“It’s something that you can’t describe,” Hrustic told AAP.
“You’ve got to live it to feel it kind of.
“Sometimes I don’t believe it, but it is what it is, and I’m going to be playing in a Europa League final, which is something massive.
Something you dream of as a little kid and I’m proud to say that I’ve managed to get so far, to come so far with my career and hopefully there’s a lot more to come.”
Having not lost a game throughout the entire tournament and brushing aside Spanish giants Barcelona and English Premier League outfit West Ham on their route to the final, Frankfurt enters the match full of confidence.
But standing in their way is a Rangers side that eliminated German clubs Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig on their own way to the final.
Hrustic, who has featured regularly off the bench during Frankfurt’s run to the final, said he was not worrying about what Rangers had achieved so far in the tournament, instead preferring to concentrate on his own side.
“We’ve got zero defeats so far in the Europa League and we’ve managed to come across some of the biggest teams in Europe, if not the world,” he said.
We’re not going to underestimate Rangers but we’ve got confidence and we’re going to head into the game with our chest out and our heads up.
“The manager’s announced also himself we might not be the best players individually, and they might not be the best staff individually, but as a team, there’s something special and this is something that sums up kind of our club and our fans.”
Eintracht supporters are anticipated to return to Spain in significant numbers after selling out Barcelona’s Camp Nou for the quarterfinal triumph with 30,000 away fans.
There has been an overwhelming demand for tickets for the final so it is entirely possible that Frankfurt’s fans may overpower Rangers supporters in Seville on Thursday morning.
“It’s slowly starting to kick in,” Hrustic said.
“I’ve even seen some stores are going to be closing up because of the game.
“I’ve heard also that there’s going to be the game streamed live in Frankfurt for the people who can’t get tickets to travel to see us, so it’s going to be something big.
The whole city is behind us, that’s the feeling that we’ve got and we believe. It also feels like you’ve got the whole of Germany behind you. It’s a big moment for all of us and also for the club.
“Winning the Europa League means Champions League football next season, which is also another massive achievement.”