Nebojsa Marinkovic has been on fire during Perth Glory’s FFA Cup run, scoring two goals in the semi-final and taking his Cup tally to five goals. After a few pretenders, Australian football may have found a new free kick specialist.
While Italian superstar Alessandro Del Piero was a renowned master of the art well before he lined up for Sydney FC, Marinkovic has been a revelation.
The Serbian import scored his second stunning free kick in three days to end Bentleigh Green’s fairytale Cup run 3-0 and earn Perth Glory a place in the inaugural FFA CUP final against Adelaide United.
Speaking about his dead ball exploits the former Partizan Belgrade midfielder revealed the task was made all the more difficult because of the regulation footballs that were used across the different competitions.
“It’s not easy because we play in the A-League with the Nike ball and in the FFA Cup we play with the Umbro ball,” the 28-year-old said.
“It’s a big difference between the balls. With the Nike ball you must shoot it strong because it’s a heavy ball.
“So before the FFA Cup game I practised in the warm up, I practised five or six shots to have a feeling of the Umbro ball because the last time I touched the Umbro ball was against Melbourne Victory where I also scored a goal. You need to have good weight (on the shot) because it’s a different ball.
Marinkovic added: “I (have) scored two in a row (before) but not in such a short time.
“I score one goal after six days, but never in three days and such a very short time. I never have a game after 48 hours - I never play before like this.
“So it was not easy for us. But the two free kick goals for me were very nice goals.”
Marinkovic arrived in Perth in January this year, just a few weeks after former Glory coach Alistair Edwards was sacked, and likes what he has seen of the domestic comp.
“I’ve played in different leagues in Israel, Serbia and Spain,” he said.
“The Australian league is very tough to play in because they play strong, so there is not too much space to play in.
“Every year the league is progressing, every year it’s becoming better and I think it can progress more.
“It’s a very strong league and many good players come here, big players, good names.”
And after making such a massive contribution to Glory’s Cup success it is no surprise the former Serbian youth international is feeling positive about the season ahead.
“I feel great because we got to the final of the FFA Cup and we are in first place (of the A- League),” he said.
“It’s nice for Glory and also for me, I’ve scored three goals in three games, it’s a nice feeling, I feel very good.
“This is the first Cup competition (since the A League started) so it’s a good opportunity for all the clubs to make some history because everyone will always remember the winner of the first one.
“We have had some tough games in the FFA Cup against Newcastle and Victory. So it’s not easy for us to get to the final. Now we are in the final we deserve this, I think we play good and I am very happy.”
Marinkovic says even that before the season start Glory were aiming high.
“We know that we have a good squad, good coaching staff and we speak always before the start of the season that the target is to get to the A- League play-offs and to make the final of the FFA Cup and everyone has the same target,” Marinkovic said.
“We work hard in the pre-season – it was three or four months we work very hard and if you work hard everything comes back, this is normal.
“We played Wellington away and then Brisbane at home so after these games we think that we can go up because I think we play good football.”
It hasn’t always been pretty but Perth has been able to grind out results when needed.
Marinkovic added: “Sometimes we play games very good and sometimes we play not so good. This is important to take three points all the time - it’s a good character for the players, this winning mentality.
Poor away form hurt Perth last season, but in this campaign of the A League it’s been the key to their early success.
“Many people told me when I come to Perth that in their history, it has not won too many games outside Perth,” Marinkovic said.
“But this season we start with a new strong team, good coaches and we have this new mentality from the pre-season.
“We have strong characters in the team, we have many experienced players, we have many players that come in so we have a strong squad.”
He said the influence of Glory coach Kenny Lowe in the dressing room and the mix of attacking weapons in the squad have Perth playing a more attractive style of football this season.
“Kenny is good with the players, he creates a good atmosphere and he likes to play soccer, he doesn’t like to play the long ball,” he said
“He brings in players who like to play football. He likes attacking soccer, so it’s good for us because we have attacking players.
“Also assistant coach Andy Ord likes to play the same system as Kenny. These two coaches are very important for us they teach us from the beginning how they want us to play.
“We have many good and different players. Andy Keogh has scored many goals and it’s important for him because he’s a striker. And we have Youssouf Hersi who can play on the wing and is very good, also Mitch Nicholls who plays in the middle with me and we combine very well.
“Everyone has different qualities, one is fast, one is a dribbler, one is technical , so we have many options in the middle and to attack and we can play in different positions.”
Perth Glory play the Western Sydney Wanderers at home on Saturday. The Asian champions are yet to win a league game this season.
So can he make it three free kicks in a row?
“It would be nice,” Marinkovic said.
“I practice this week more. Now I must continue to practice to stay in this form.
“But you know the Wanderers are a good team. At the moment they have zero points, but maybe it’s because they were focused on the Asian Champions League.
“They are strong, they have good players, and it will be a very tough game for us.”
Meanwhile Marinkovic says he is hoping to be a feature of the Australian football scene for some time to come.
“I want to stay here in Australia if possible for many years because I like it here and my family is happy.”
Con Stamocostas is an Australian football writer. Check out Episode Two of his latest A- League Football Snobcast with co-host Rob Toddler.