Mat Ryan, Robbie Kruse and Tom Rogic are all hoping to book their spots in the UEFA Champions League this week and Australia coach Ange Postecoglou couldn’t be happier see his Socceroos playing at the highest level.
Ryan is set to make his Valencia competitive debut when the Spaniards host Monaco in the Champions League play-off round tomorrow morning (AEST).
Kruse was an injury-time substitute overnight in Bayer Leverkusen’s 1-0 loss at Lazio, while Rogic is in the mix to play for Celtic at home to Malmo tomorrow morning (AEST).
Mitch Langerak, previously with Borussia Dortmund, and Kruse were the only Australians to play in the Champions League last season, making a combined three appearances.
Postecoglou is hopeful the growth in numbers is a sign of the progress being made by his young squad as they move towards the 2018 World Cup.
“It’s great to have another player playing at the highest possible level,” Postecoglou said about Ryan during a teleconference on Wednesday morning.
“From my perspective, we’ve probably got half a dozen guys now in this group playing at a higher level this year than they were last year.
“Hopefully that continues. By the time the next World Cup comes around we want the majority of our squad playing at the highest possible levels.
“That process has started and some of our young guys are beginning to push themselves on, which will benefit our national team.”
Ingolstadt’s Mathew Leckie headlines a list of Socceroos who’ve moved up a division this season, along with Preston’s Bailey Wright, Bournemouth’s Adam Federici and new QPR man Massimo Luongo.
Bernie Ibini, Tomi Juric, Daniel De Silva and Terry Antonis are all Socceroos who’ve moved from the A-League to Europe this off-season too.
In terms of movement, though, there’s been no bigger Australian off-season transfer than Ryan, joining the Spanish heavyweights.
Ryan will get first crack at Valencia’s number one shirt in the absence of vice-captain Diego Alves who is out until the new year with a knee injury.
Postecoglou said Ryan’s history at Central Coast, Club Brugge and the Socceroos gave him confidence he’d capitalise on the opportunity.
“If you look at his record, when someone gives him an opportunity, he excels,” Postecoglou said.
“It’s well documented he’s made some really intelligent decisions in terms of his career and he’s backed that up with performances , whether that’s with the national team or at club level.
“He consistently has been the best in his trade, whether that’s in the A-League or in Belgium. He deserves his opportunity now and it’s up to him.”
The return legs for the Champions League play-offs take place next week.comments