32 days to go: Zeljko Kalac’s FIFA World Cup story

We’re just over a month away from the start of the 2018 FIFA World Cup and as part of our countdown to the tournament, we are profiling every Australian player who's been to a FIFA World Cup.

Next up is a man who featured in one of the memorable games of the 2006 tournament in Germany, goalkeeper Zeljko Kalac.

READ: FIFA World Cup: Countdown for the Caltex Socceroos

Cap number: 386

World Cups played at: 2006

Position: Goalkeeper

Age at World Cup: 33 (now aged 45)

Clubs played for:

Sydney United, Leicester City, Roda JC, Perugia, AC Milan, Kavala, Hobart Zebras

Best World Cup moment:

Of the four games the Caltex Socceroos started at the ’06 tournament in Germany, Kalac played in only the final group match against Croatia.

Despite being at fault for Croatia’s second goal – when he let a tame shot slip through his hands and into the net – Australia recovered to draw the match 2-2.

The result was enough to send Guus Hiddink’s side through to the last 16 and a clash with eventual World Champions Italy.

Tony Popovic and Zeljko Kalac celebrate after the draw against Croatia.
Tony Popovic and Zeljko Kalac celebrate after the draw against Croatia.

Career highlight:

Kalac was on the bench for the Caltex Socceroos – and would have been a late substitute for the shootout if not for an injury to Brett Emerton – in the famous win over Uruguay in 2005.

At club level he also had plenty of success, winning a Dutch Cup with Roda JC in 2000 and the Intertoto Cup with Perugia in 2003.

But most of his success came at Serie A giants AC Milan, where he became the only Australia player to have UEFA Champions League, European Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup winner’s medals.

Post-playing career:

Kalac has stayed involved in football since his playing retirement, doing some work in the media as well as coaching at Hyundai A-League clubs Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers.

Did you know?

Kalac’s nickname Spider was given to him when he was just 14-years-old by Graham Arnold at Sydney United.

“When they used to shoot and I'd make a save, they'd all say, ‘how did this Spider save that, there's nothing of him he's just arms and legs’,” Kalac said in an interview with FourFourTwo.