Agostino Returning To His Roots

When Paul Agostino steps out for Australia in a FIFA World Cup qualifier in Adelaide on Saturday, he will be returning to his roots. Story -  When Paul Agostino steps out for Australia in a FIFA World Cup qualifier in Adelaide on Saturday, he will be returning to his roots.

The TSV 1860 München striker, who has plied his trade in the Bundesliga since 1997, was born in the Australian city 28 years ago. The ex-pat endured the biggest disappointment of his career last weekend when his club were relegated to the second division.

In his seven years with the München team, Agostino has become a true "Lions" fan, and his devastation over the club's relegation had clearly not subsided during a stop-over in Singapore en route to Adelaide: "This is the lowest point of my career," he insisted.

It is probably a blessing, therefore, that the 28-year-old had to head off to Australia immediately after the disappointment, and now he has other things on his mind. On Saturday, the team from Down Under embark on a series of qualifying matches for the 2006 FIFA World Cup™. Their first opponents are rivals New Zealand, followed by Tahiti (31 May), Fiji (2 June), Vanuatu (4 June) and the Solomon Islands (6 June).

The powerful striker is in sparkling form too. With four goals in his last nine games, his goals were almost enough to retain TSV 1860's top-flight status. Under coach Falko Götz, who was dismissed before the season's climax, Agostino was out of favour, his appearances limited to coming on as substitute in the last ten minutes. spoke with the München favourite about his sporting future and Australia's prospects.

FIFA World Cup qualification starts on Saturday. How difficult will the qualifiers be in your home city Adelaide?

The first game will be the toughest, but we should get the better of the Kiwis at home. Yes, we have a few injuries, but we should beat New Zealand. The physical stress is definitely not a factor, even if we have to play five games in nine days. Most of the boys have 40 games under their belt, so another five won't make any difference. Tiredness won't be a problem. I'll be meeting up with a lot of friends as well, so it will be fantastic for me.

Will the change in climate be a problem?

Definitely not. The weather in Australia is similar to München at the moment, between 14 and 20 degrees Celsius.

You have played in the Bundesliga since 1997. Would it be the highlight of your career to play in the 2006 FIFA World CupTM in Germany?

It certainly would be. I'm currently at rock bottom, so things can only get better. The World Cup in Germany would be an incredible experience for me. But there's a long way to go. The winner from Oceania plays the fifth placed team from South America. That could still be Bolivia or Paraguay, which would be very difficult.

Where does your own sporting future lie? Will you stay with the Lions in the Bundesliga second division?

If the club wants me. I expect a decision to be made after I return on 9 or 10 June. My contract runs until the end of 2005. If TSV 1860 want to keep me, I would be happy to stay in München.

With hindsight, what were the main factors in TSV 1860 München going down?

First of all, we had a poor home record. I feel sorry for Gerald Vanenburg. He just couldn't turn it around. We all really wanted to win for him, but the statistics say it all. People talk about the change of coach and other stories, but none of that was the reason we went down. We were just too weak from back to front.