Fresh from becoming the first Australian men’s player to take the field and win a major European trophy since Harry Kewell, Ajdin Hrustic is now hoping to emulate the former Socceroo in Green and Gold.
Hrustic lifted the Europa League with Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville a fortnight ago to become the first Socceroo to win a European trophy in over a decade.
As he has done throughout Eintracht Frankfurt’s Europa League campaign, Hrustic came off the bench to inject some attacking prowess into the final.
With the score locked at 1-1 at the end of extra time, the 25-year-old then stepped up to hold his nerve as he converted a spot-kick in the penalty shootout that decided the Europa League Final.
As Hrustic lived out his boyhood dream to lift the Europa League trophy, he also became the first Australian men’s player to take the field and win a major European trophy since Kewell figured in Liverpool’s Champions League triumph in 2005.
Kewell possesses no shortage of wonderful stories to tell from his time with the Socceroos but few were more important than his contribution against Uruguay to send Australia to the 2006 World Cup.
WATCH BELOW: Harry Kewell reflects on his heroics against Uruguay in 2005
Hrustic is hoping his own performance can be just as meaningful when Australia takes on the UAE in a must-win World Cup play-off on Wednesday, June 8 at 4am (AEST).
“I actually sent Harry Kewell a message because we did a little interview a few days ago,” Hrustic told socceroos.com.au.
“I said to him that I remember the ponytail that he had, the number seven and number ten that he had.
“I did look up to David Beckham, but I did look up to him as well. He’s a massive player and he’s been massive for the national team as well.
I’m trying to follow in his footsteps because he’s always stood up. Now it’s time for us and for myself to stand up in our do or die clashes.”
While Hrustic arrived in camp for the final phase of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ Qualifying with a Europa League medal, he is not the only Socceroo to have tasted success over the past month.
Denis Genreau helped fire Toulouse to the Ligue 2 title in France and was also named PFA’s Young Player of the Year while Tom Rogic won the Scottish Premier League with Celtic FC as well as Professional Footballers Australia’s Men’s Football of the Year Award.
Nathaniel Atkinson also featured in the Scottish Cup Final and Bailey Wright played a leading role in Sunderland’s England’s Championship promotion at Wembley.
Check out the Socceroos’ full squad for June’s crucial FIFA World Cup™ Play-offs here.
Hrustic said the energy within the camp had risen as a result of his teammate’s success with their clubs.
“It’s a positive energy that each one of us brings into camp,” he explained.
“It helps us also for our performance but also for the team and the staff.
It means a lot for us and for Australian football, especially in such a moment like this where we have do or die games coming up.”
Australia warms up for their must-win game against the UAE with a friendly in Doha against Jordan on Wednesday (Thursday, 4am AEST).
Looking to replicate the UAE match as much as possible, the Jordan fixture will see the Socceroos take on Western Asian opposition, in the same climate, city, and pitch conditions that they need to overcome a week later.
It is the first time the Socceroos will have an extended period to prepare for a World Cup qualifier in months after COVID-19 issues limited staff and player involvement in the past two camps.
Hrustic said having a friendly and an extended run on the training pitch will be a huge help as they endeavour to qualify for a fifth consecutive World Cup.
“It’s probably one of the biggest plus points that we’ve got,” he said.
We’ve got time to prepare and we’ve got a lot of training sessions ahead where we can work on little details which we never did before.
“The vibe is good and the energy is good. I’ve seen all the players and the staff. They are all excited because they’ve got a bit more time to prepare.
“Normally, we come in, train once or twice and then play a big game. Now we have time to step up and we have time to do everything that we need to do to prepare ourselves for the big games coming up.”
Read the Ultimate Guide: How to watch Socceroos v UAE here.