44 days to go: Tony Popovic'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 Russia, we are profiling every Australian player who has been to football's biggest tournament.

Today we feature Tony Popovic, a tough-tackling defender who won 58 caps across 11 years with the national team.

He also won three OFC Nations Cups before getting to the big stage with Australia in 2006.

READ: FIFA World Cup: Countdown for the Caltex Socceroos

Cap number: 407

World Cups played at: 2006

Position: Defender

Age at World Cup: 32 (now 44)

Clubs played for:

Sydney United, Canberra FC (loan), Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Crystal Palace, Al-Arabi, Sydney FC

Best World Cup moment:

There are few more authentic FIFA World Cup experiences than playing against Brazil and that's exactly what Popovic enjoyed in Munich in 2006.

Though his tournament debut was disappointingly cut short by a calf injury, the imposing centre-back can always boast he kept Ronaldo and Adriano scoreless for his 40 minutes on the pitch.

He was unfortunately ruled out of the following two matches, but gracing the pitch was deserved reward for a player who had been part of two unsuccessful qualifying campaigns.

Tony Popovic Adriano
Battling with Brazil striker Adriano.

Career highlight:

A much-loved figure at many clubs, Popovic's profile was at its highest during his five seasons at Crystal Palace, which included 23 appearances in the Premier League in 2004-05.

It was in England in 2003 that he also had one of his most memorable moments in international football.

Playing against the Three Lions, Popovic rose above Gary Neville at the far post to head home Stan Lazaridis' free-kick and set the Caltex Socceroos on their way to a famous 3-1 victory.

Tony Popovic and Michael Owen
Popovic taking on Michael Owen at Upton Park.

Post-playing career:

Following spells as an assistant at former clubs Sydney FC and Crystal Palace, Popovic was appointed Western Sydney Wanderers' inaugural Hyundai A-League coach in 2012 and incredibly led the club to both the Premiers Plate and AFC Champions League glory in the space of two years.

He departed after five seasons in charge and moved to Karabukspor in Turkey, but left the Super Lig late in 2017.

Did you know?

Popovic was made captain of Sydney United aged just 20, with his early leadership qualities recognised by former Australia international Manfred Schaefer.