Mrcela proof of Ange's global search
Perth-born Croatia-raised Mrcela has never represented Australia at any level and is largely unknown to most Socceroos supporters.
However, the 24-year-old has earned his call-up on the back of progression in Croatia’s top flight, after first coming to the Socceroos’ coaches attention at Hrvatski Dragovoljac ahead of the World Cup last year.
Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou has preached since his appointment that he’d scout the entire globe for talent and Mrcela’s call-up is evidence of that.
“It did catch me by surprise and I did have some holidays planned, but it’s the best surprise I ever had,” Mrcela told FourFourTwo.
Mrcela has played for a variety of clubs in Croatia, rising up the divisions before earning his call-up on the back of good form with top-flight contenders Lokomotiva Zagreb whom he joined in June last year.
“(The Socceroos coaches) already knew of me for over a year when I was at Hrvatski Dragovoljac and obviously were looking to see how I’d go at a higher level and a bigger club,” he said.
“That’s what I did when I went to Lokomotiva Zagreb. They’re a club at the top of the league.
“Then the interest got more serious. They watched me a few times on Wyscout and some coaches came and watched me live in Croatia.
“I knew my time was coming and I was a bit surprised it arrived so soon, but Trent [Sainsbury] got injured and I got the call.”
Mrcela said he was completely unfamiliar with the entire playing squad, having moved to Croatia as a five-year-old and never represented Australia at junior level.
However, he said the group made him feel at home quickly, particularly the likes of Matt Spiranovic, Tomi Juric and Eugene Galekovic, with whom he shares Croatian heritage.
With Sainsbury out of the squad, Mrcela is one of three contenders to partner Spiranovic in the centre of defence, with Bailey Wright and Alex Wilkinson in the mix too.
“I’m not thinking about it too much,” Mrcela said.
“I’ll give my best and if the coach decides to put me in the side there’s no one happier than me. I’ll give my best as always.
“The other three centre-backs are great as well, they’re established, so I’ll give my best and what happens we’ll see.”
Despite playing down his chances of playing next week, Mrcela is clearly boosted by his call-up and wants to take learnings from the camp back to his club form.
He’s also confident he belongs at international level.
“I’m sure I’ve got what it takes to be here,” he said. “I’m going to improve my playing skills by being here for the 10 days.
“When I go back to my club I’m going to know what I need to improve. I’m looking forward.”