Socceroo keeper Mat Ryan is still pinching himself after his dream season in Belgium, one which has him on the cusp of first World Cup finals as the Socceroos’ number one.
Speaking at a public appearance with the squad in Sydney today, Ryan readily admits playing an entire season with Belgium’s Club Brugge, and winning the Belgian Keeper of the Year accolade, has supercharged his selection chances for Brazil.
Chances that eight months ago had him as number two or three for the national team behind the legendary - but now retired - Mark Schwarzer.
Yet after a dream season in Europe, Ryan has a number one spot at the World Cup within his grasp.
“Just before I left [Australia] being in contention [for the Socceroo squad] and now going over to Belgium and enjoying my football and now there’s a really big possibility of playing at a World Cup.
“It’s hard to imagine it going any better,” he said.
“If I hadn’t gone over I’d be on more of a level playing field with the other guys. But being overseas has given me an extra advantage.”
Ryan however is loath to claim he is the new number one for the World Cup – even though he was starting keeper in the last two games since Schwarzer retired and coach Ange Postecoglou began his Socceroo era.
“Not yet,” he said when quizzed.
“There’s still a bit of work ahead of us. I’ve just got to keep working hard, stay fit and if I keep my form, hopefully I’ll be there.”
At just 22-years-old, Ryan described himself as a more senior figure at his Belgian club, one which he’s not accustomed to but something he’s clearly relishing in a side that’s qualified for the Europa League.
“This year there were a lot of young guys [at Club Brugge].
“The Belgian league is notorious for giving a lot of young guys a go.
“I felt like I had to take a more senior role from the beginning with a young backline.”
Ryan admitted the Belgian league’s business model is to be a seller to bigger clubs in order to help balance the books.
And with this in mind, Ryan had a bit of a chuckle when asked about being linked recently to Real Madrid by his former A-League coach Graham Arnold.
“I was cursing a little bit when I first saw it,” he said with a laugh.
“I was asleep, woken up, went to training and checked my phone at a traffic light. I quickly learnt that Arnie had mentioned it and I asked him about it and he said he’d been in contact with an agent in Europe that had said a Real Madrid scout had mentioned my name.
“But I’m not getting caught up in that. I’ll keep working hard.
“It’s business as usual.”
Send Off the Socceroos
Socceroos vs South Africa, presented by NAB
Monday 26 May 2014 ANZ Stadium, Sydney Kick-off: 7.30pm
Tickets from $30, including public transport. Buy now!
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