Day 18 Wrap: Getting inside the minds of Caltex Socceroos
The Caltex Socceroos enjoyed a rare day off to refresh their bodies ahead of the final pre-FIFA World Cup™ friendly against Hungary on Sunday.
With just one more day in Anatalya before the team travels to Budapest, Australia will then travel to their Russian training base in Kazan immediately after the Hungary friendly.
So with no updates from the training park, we thought we’d use this opportunity to gain some insights from a former 2006 FIFA World Cup™ star who is helping the current crop maximise their potential.
No stone has been left unturned in ensuring the Caltex Socceroos are best prepared to face France, Denmark and Peru in Russia.
With Bert van Marwijk and his staff joining the likes of assistant coach Ante Milicic, long standing goalkeeper coach Tony Franken, head physio Les Gelis and head of sports science Dr Craig Duncan, there is a host of experienced minds working to ensure the team is physically, tactically and technically prepared for the challenges to come at the FIFA World Cup™.
Yet of equal importance is the mental wellbeing of the players and team.
Which is where former Caltex Socceroos fan favourite Mile Sterjovski comes into play – the Player Adviser and Mentor, who has been involved throughout 2018 FIFA World Cup™ qualifying and the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup™.
It’s a role which allows the 43-capped international to focus on the players’ state of mind, easing and advising on any concerns that impact how they perform on the field.
“The way I do my role is I’m basically available for players to come and talk to if they have any problems whether it’s football related or not,” explained Sterjovski to socceroos.com.au.
“It’s to try to get them focused for training and matches to get the best out of them.
“I also look for little signs at training, in around and camp, to see if there are any little issues going on. If there is, [it’s about] trying to dissolve them.
“I try to look from a bit further back to see if there is anything going on and try to help them in that situation.”
Brought into the staff set up by former boss Ange Postecoglou, Sterjovski’s experience of going to the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ as a member of Australia’s ‘golden generation’ means the 39-year-old is well placed to provide insights into playing at the highest level to some of the younger members in camp.
But it’s not just players young or old Sterjovski aims to focus on, rather the collective – with team morale vital to how the Caltex Socceroos play.
“To a lot of people it might not be big things but, being in that situation in the past, I know the team morale and team environment is very important,” said the former Hyundai A-League 2013 Grand Final winner.
“If I can pick up on anything and even help in the littlest way I think I’m making a bigger impact than what people think.
“I think being a former player helps in my role. I’m here more to listen and hear what they’ve got to say. I’m not a ‘know-it-all’ type of guy.”
Sterjovski added: “I think the mentality of the group is very good.
“Obviously they’re all very competitive and wanting to get a starting spot. So there’s a bit of tension obviously in camp for that but it’s all friendly rivalry.
Everyone wants a position on the starting team. I think that’s all good. I think our strength as Australians has always been we’re a good group together. We fight for each other.
“Even though there are players for starting positions, there are also a lot of players that help each other. That’s what our strength is and it was no different back when I played.
“I think that’s just the Australian characteristics we have and I think that’s going to help us get through.”
The Caltex Socceroos will finalise their FIFA World Cup™ preparations against Hungary on Sunday morning at Groupama Arena in Budapest, kick off at 1.30am AEST live on Fox Sports and Network Ten.