Massimo Luongo says he is surprised to find himself in the Socceroos' final 23-man World Cup squad, as Ange Postecoglou's backs his youngsters to perform in Brazil.
Luongo has enjoyed a meteoric rise within the national team set-up since Postecoglou took over, making his debut off the bench in the 4-3 friendly loss to Ecuador in March.
He was included in the 30-man pre-tournament training squad last month but was tipped by some not to make the travelling party of 27 due to his inexperience.
However, not only was he on the plane to Brazil, but with Josh Kennedy, Tom Rogic, Luke Wilkshire and Mark Birighitti the four unfortunate players axed by Postecoglou on Tuesday, the 21-year-old Swindon Town man now has a chance to take on Chile, the Netherlands and Spain on the biggest stage in the football world.
"Yeah, I am," he told reporters when asked if he was surprised to have survived the cull.
"From the beginning, I just took it (as an) experience."
Luongo is understood to have greatly impressed the coaching staff with his technical ability and passing range, and did his chances no harm with an impressive performance in the 2-0 friendly win over Parana Clube on Monday.
"Leading up into the game yesterday I did get my hopes up, didn't play them down at all, just took (each) day as it came.
"I feel good, excited obviously. Privileged ... lots of emotions going on. I'm just happy I got the opportunity, very grateful."
Questions have been asked about a lack of cover at fullback following Wilkshire's omission, but Postecoglou is supremely confident he has the tools at his disposal to get the job done.
"The squad I have picked has plenty of variation and that was key in my decision," he said at press conference following the squad announcement in Vitoria on Tuesday.
"My thoughts are that in terms of experience this will be invaluable for our young players.
"Right now we are happy with the 23 we have got and they have worked really hard over the last couple of weeks.
"It was hard for the boys who did so much to get here and they were understandably disappointed.
"We are privileged to be in a position to play in a World Cup and it's up to the guys left to do a good job."
And the coach reserved special words of praise for star pupil Luongo, who - if his development progresses on the same upward trajectory - looks set to become a fixture in green and gold.
"I think Mass did well yesterday and has trained hard," he said, referring his performance in the friendly.
"The experience will hopefully take him to another level in the years to come."comments