Luongo set to be next Socceroos superstar

After a breakthrough showing in Australia's triumphant Asian Cup campaign, Massimo Luongo is set to be the Socceroos' next star.

When did Australia take their first steps on the path to Asian Cup glory?

Was it after leaving the World Cup in Brazil with their heads held high but without a single point to show for their efforts from three matches played?

Perhaps it was when Football Federation Australia fired Holger Osieck and put the call in to Ange Postecoglou, the architect of Brisbane Roar's rise to A-League powerhouse status.

No, those landmarks are too tangible, too obvious a jumping off point.

Finding the start of this story means following the Socceroos' newly appointed coach, tasked with the challenge of reinvigorating and restoring pride to the men in green and gold, back to the moment he first laid eyes on diminutive midfielder Massimo Luongo.

If you'd canvassed opinions 18 months ago, the slight-of-frame Swindon Town player, a discarded product of Tottenham's academy, would have been an unlikely candidate for the title of 'Asian Cup hero'.

But those are exactly the terms being applied to the 22-year-old after he capped off a breakout tournament with a goal in Australia's 2-1 extra-time win over South Korea in the final in Sydney on Saturday.

The gifted youngster will surely be one of the first names on the team sheet during the years ahead, but his stock with the national team coach was considerably lower in 2013 as Postecoglou scouted potential reinforcements in the lower reaches of English football.

"I was cursing him," he said.

"It was a windy old day, it was a bit of a battle the actual game. It was freezing. I was wondering why he couldn't be playing for Real Madrid or Barcelona. He may be one day. But the fact he was in League One didn't put me off. We knew he was a guy who deserved an opportunity."

Luongo himself appears to be the perfect Postecoglou disciple. 

Quiet and unassuming off the field, he more than makes up for it when he crosses the white line, grabbing matches by the scruff of the neck and demonstrating a footballing maturity that belies his youth and less-than-glamorous club surroundings.

"We set out on this journey before the World Cup," Luongo told the media late on Saturday.

"The boss put the main thing forward, 'we have to have belief in ourselves. Together, we can make history', he said. And we have. Today ... no words can describe it."

Putting Australia ahead against South Korea with a rifled shot from outside the area, Luongo played a typically crucial role in a final that proved to be as dramatic as it was competitive.

There were suggestions the desperation and urgency of the contest lessened its aesthetic appeal. Quite the opposite, as far as the winning coach was concerned. 

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," Postecoglou said.

"I thought it was a beautiful game. It's two teams going at it, giving everything they've got because they know what's on the line. Today was about courage and belief ... the players had that in abundance."

In Massimo Luongo, Postecoglou found at least one player with those qualities just waiting to be given a chance to prove it.

The good news for Australia, as new and greater challenges await on the road to Russia 2018, is there appears to be at least 22 others just like him.