Football 2 years ago

Degenek offers Socceroos options aplenty

  • Degenek offers Socceroos options aplenty

    SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 04: Milos Degenek of Australia tackles Giannis Gianniotas of Greece during the international friendly match between the Australian Socceroos and Greece at ANZ Stadium on June 4, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

He never stopped believing a dream call-up was coming, and Socceroos youngster Milos Degenek hopes his composed starting debut against Greece provides a springboard to a long-term gig.

Degenek delivered a tidy performance in Saturday night's 1-0 win at ANZ Stadium, partnering friend and former Australian Institute of Sport colleague Trent Sainsbury in central defence.

Versatile and self-assured beyond his 22 years, Degenek has been knocking on the Socceroos door for a while, and was finally called on for last weekend's 2-1 loss to England in the absence of Sainsbury, Matthew Spiranovic and Ryan McGowan.

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That first outing at right-back earned him another chance to replace the injured Spiranovic against Greece, and the Croatia-born former Serbia under-19 player never felt out of place.

"I've played in big games, but this was one of the biggest I've played in my life," Degenek said.

"There were good nerves, just normal things before you go out for a warm-up and see the fans.

"But it died out and concentration led the way, just me wanting to play well.

"I thought the call-up would come one day, I wasn't sure when - as long as I'm breathing I don't give up, man.

"And it's unbelievable - better than I expected."

At 24, Sainsbury was the most senior of Saturday's fresh-faced backline also featuring 22-year-old Liverpool left-back Brad Smith and 23-year-old debutant right-back Jason Geria.

Their competence gave coach Ange Postecoglou a glimpse at the defensive depth at his fingertips.

One of Degenek's strongest attributes may be flexibility, having regularly played centre-half, both full-back positions and as a holding midfielder for his German second-division side TSV 1860 Munich.

He's comfortable anywhere but feels he's at his best in central defence, where Sainsbury said he shone.

"He slotted in seamlessly and did his job well, as did the other two youngsters at the back," Sainsbury said.

"Youngest back four I think in Australian history and it was a clean sheet against Greece. What more do you want?"

Sainsbury was relieved to find he could still match it at international level after signing with Chinese Super League outfit Jiangsu Suning in January.

"That was probably my biggest concern now I'm in China," he said.

"I thought I handled it pretty well, my body stuck up to the challenge."

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