Socceroo Aziz Behich has enjoyed quite the season.
A breakout campaign with Turkish club Bursaspor saw the defender play in a Turkish Cup final and amass over 39 club games on his way to earning a Socceroos recall after two years away.
The 10-time Socceroo is hoping to bring that confidence to the national team as the Socceroos kick off their 2018 World Cup qualification campaign against Kyrgyzstan in Bishkek.
“It’s been a long season for myself and it’s been a successful one," Behich told FourFourTwo.
"I have played a lot of games and it’s the main thing I wanted to get at this early stage of my career.
"To play regular football there and get my name back on the Socceroos team sheet is something I strive for and something that hopefully continues in the future."
The road to Russia 2018 begins via the Silk Road, with the Socceroos having to navigate a tricky clash against an unknown opponent playing in unfamiliar surroundings.
Even though Kyrgyzstan is placed 177th in the FIFA rankings, Behich says coach Ange Postecoglou is not going to let the Socceroos underestimate their opponents.
“The boss is preparing us the same way as when we played against South Korea in the Asian Cup final,” the 24-year-old said.
“It’s no different, we don’t take any opponent for granted. He’s got us working hard and just making sure everyone is on the same page with the way we want to play and he’s making sure that everyone is switched on. We know it’s not going to be easy game.
“We’ll analyse their past few games, they got a win yesterday against Bangladesh so it’s not going to be an easy game for us, the boys are all raring to go and they’re all pretty excited and hopefully we can get the job done over there."
Regarding the expectation the team carries being Asian champions, Behich said: “Coming off the win in the Asian Cup I think we expect high standards from each and every one of us.
"We all know what we are capable of. We are not just looking at what we can do in this campaign, we also want to look beyond.
"We want to make a statement and show that we are not just an Australian team. We want to make a statement and show that we want to be competitive and compete with the best in the world.”
The left-back position for the Socceroos is one of the more closely contested, with Jason Davidson marginally ahead of Behich in recent times.
Behich welcomes the rivalry, emphasising that it can only make the team stronger.
“It’s always good to have friendly competition within the squad for every position because I think that pushes each player to bring the best to the table and it’s always going to help the squad," he said.
"It’s always up to the boss who he gives the nod, and if I’m the one to get the nod, I’ll make sure that I’m prepared and give everything I have for my country and my teammates on the park with me."
Behich also took time to reflect on his most successful season in Europe after his career initially stalled in Turkey in early 2013 and he had to return to the A-League.
“I didn’t get much game time when I first signed in Turkey and I didn’t seem to be in the coach’s plan at the time. It was the right decision to come back to the A-League," the former Melbourne City defender said.
“I played a full season for Melbourne Heart at the time and it just got me back on a good level. I had an eye opener of what Turkey was like, so when I went back to pre-season I went in with an open mind and I was ready this time.
“A few weeks ago we beat Fenerbahce away from home 3-0 to make the Turkish Cup final. It’s always great to play against teams like Galatasaray, Fenerbahce and Besiktas because of the world-class players they have. I don’t look at the opponent when I am on the park, which helps as well.
“Personally I did well against those big three and I’m a confident player so I back my ability and that is one really good thing I have about myself. The more you play against bigger teams and playing regularly in a good league, it matures you as a player and you get more experience in those big-game situations.”comments