Graham Arnold has had his squad hard at work in the first week of the Caltex Socceroos’ training camp in Antayla in Turkey.
In Arnold’s first camp in the build-up to January’s AFC Asian Cup, the 30-man squad – which has a mix of new faces and established stars - have been working closely with the new boss.
Here’s a look back at what’s been happening in Camp Caltex Socceroo over the last week
Giannou ecstatic to be back
The in-form striker is back in the Green and Gold for the first time in almost two years, rewarded for his consistency with AEK Larnaca in Cyprus.
He’s one of five strikers in Turkey, facing stiff competition from the likes of Tomi Juric, Mitchell Duke, Jamie Maclaren and John Iredale.
“It was a very nice text to wake up to. My main goal is to try and be with the national team, to try and perform here and do whatever the coach wants and needs in the game,” Giannou said.
“Obviously he’s going to put his own style of play in the team and I want to adapt very quickly to that.”
Life sweet for Degenek right now
Not only has the defender been called up for the Caltex Socceroos training camp, Degenek also helped his club Red Star Belgrade qualify for this season’s UEFA Champions League.
Degenek played a key role in their qualification, setting up two goals against Red Bull Salzburg as Red Star returned to the continent’s top table after a 26-year absence.
“It’s hard to put into words. It’s really amazing, the atmosphere in the club at the moment is unbelievable and pretty much a dream come true,” said Degenek.
“This means the world to the club – the whole city and pretty much the whole country stood still for 24 hours. This is hopefully a big turning point for Serbian football and my club as well.”
Garuccio rewarded for club form
Since making the switch from the Hyundai A-League to Scotland with Hearts, Ben Garuccio has played all four games in his club’s perfect start to the SPL.
With two assists and some eye-catching displays, it’s earned the 23-year-old his first senior national team bow.
“I’m absolutely buzzing. It’s been my goal and every young player’s goal in Australia for a very long time," Garuccio told www.socceroos.com.au.
“Absolutely delighted to be brought in and a little bit surprised to be honest, but I’m really happy.”
Maclaren loving life in Scotland
After thriving in a short loan spell at Hibernian last season, Jamie Maclaren returned to the club for 2018/19 on loan from Darmstadt in Germany.
“The fans have been great to me and as a player you want to give that back,” he told www.socceroos.com.au.
“As a striker you want to score early on this season, for us it starts to play on your mind. As a striker you can’t beat scoring goals and hitting the back of the net and it’s always nice to do it at home.”
Dougall thrilled to be on the radar
He wasn’t expecting it but midfielder Kenneth Dougall is enjoying his first time in camp with the Caltex Socceroos.
The 25-year-old, who plays for Barnsley in England’s League One, says his inclusion in Arnold’s first training camp opens the door for other fringe Caltex Socceroos players.
“To be selected in the Socceroos is one of the best feelings,” he told www.socceroos.com.au.
“It gives me hope going forward that maybe I will be in the plans. Even for other players that haven’t been called up or are on the fringes, [it] gives everyone a bit of hope and it shows that new faces are always good.”
Mabil hones his need for speed
Awer Mabil has always been blessed with blinding pace but his game these days is much more than just a clean pair of heels.
Years of dedication to improving his craft has earned him a deserved national team call-up.
“I think in the A-League when I was with Adelaide I was a winger, a wide one on one dribbler. That’s the kind of player I was,” Mabil told www.socceroos.com.au.
“When I went to Denmark they brought me to do what I was doing in Adelaide. But then I slowly started to realise that you need more than just one thing to your game.
“When I stay wide in Europe defenders will read me easily so it was about putting in the hours with some people at the club, watching videos and trying to see where I can add on to my game.
“In the last year I’ve added on that position of being able to play as a number 10 or a winger that comes inside collects the ball and then makes something from there.”
Ryan backs Arnold to get best out of Aussie youngsters
Now a stalwart of the Australian national team, the Brighton and Hope Albion goalkeeper believes Arnold’s ability to nurture young talent could prove key in shaping a new era for the team.
“He’s had a history of producing a lot of young players and providing pathways for them to greater careers,” Ryan told www.socceroos.com.au.
“He always tries to go above and beyond not only on the football pitch but away from it to make sure that you’re feeling the happiest and most confident that you can be in order to perform at your highest level.”
How FIFA World Cup transformed Risdon
Josh Risdon was watching on at home when the Caltex Socceroos won the 2015 AFC Asian Cup.
Three years on, he was one of Australia's brightest performers at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, starting all three matches and excelling against the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Christian Eriksen.
“It was the highlight of my career. I learned a lot from not only the [FIFA] World Cup but also the camp before that,” Risdon told www.socceroos.com.au.
“I learned that I can mix myself with the best in the world. But nothing’s changed really, I still want to improve and work my way to cementing my spot.”
Langerak’s Japanese culture shock
After missing out on a spot in the 2018 FIFA World Cup squad, goalkeeper Mitch Langerak has been given a national team lifeline by Arnold.
And it’s his move to the J-League with Nagoya Grampus, where he has played regularly in the league, which has been the catalyst for his return.
"I'm enjoying living there, I'm enjoying playing there. The league is very strong,” Langerak told www.socceroos.com.au.
"I think you could ask a lot of the boys who have played in Japan just how strong it actually is. It's a challenge every week playing against really good players and really good opponents.”
Arnold impressed with his Caltex Socceroos
"It's been great to get back on the pitch with the players, to start driving the principles into the players that we want them to do," he said.
"The most important thing for me with this camp was to get the connection with the players.
"The energy in training and intensity of training sessions has been sky high.”
Genreau ‘humbled and honoured’ to be in camp
After just four games in the Eredivisie with PEC Zwolle, the last thing Denis Genreau expected was a Caltex Socceroos call-up.
But that’s exactly what happened for the 19-year-old playmaker, who has been relishing every minute of the training camp in Turkey this week.
“It’s been really nice to get to know the boys, get to know the staff, and to share a dressing room with some of Australia’s best players,” Genreau told www.socceroos.com.au.
“I’m really excited to be involved, really humbled and honoured as well to be a part of the group.
“Every time I put on the jersey as a Young Socceroo I was extremely excited and very honoured as well. But to be invited to a Socceroos training camp, and the fact that Graham Arnold and the FFA are looking at me and following me in Europe at the moment is fantastic.
“It’s every footballer’s dream to put on the jersey one day for the national team and I couldn’t be happier to be involved at the moment.”
Vukovic is living the dream
A couple of years ago Danny Vukovic could only dream of playing in one of Europe’s big club competitions.
But after a sensational first season abroad with Belgian club RKC Genk, the Caltex Socceroos gloveman will get that chance in this season’s Europa League.
“It’s massive for me personally,” Vukovic told www.socceroos.com.au.
“Two years ago, I was playing in Australia and watching these sorts of games on TV, so now to have the chance to feature in these big matches is what I have dreamed of.
“We are in a group that we feel we can do well in. It’s not going to be easy though.
“While playing two games a week and traveling through Europe is going to be difficult, we feel that we have the team that can progress to the next stage.”
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