EXCLUSIVE: Franjic’s rise built on Aussie spirit and Samba flair

Ivan Franjic's extraordinary rise from park footballer in Melbourne to Socceroo starter has been built on his attack-minded style from fullback which drew inspiration from Brazilian greats.

He admits he has modelled his game on excitement-machines Roberto Carlos and Dani Alves but has been working overtime on improving the defensive-side of his game for the World Cup.

And with the Socceroos all-but written off in their so-called 'Group of Death', Franjic believes the team is ready to shock the world.

"It's exciting because as a footballer you want to test yourself against the best," he told www.socceroos.com.au .

"It's a great opportunity to see where we stand on the world stage. I'm prepared and ready and won't take a step back.

"We've got the Aussie fighting spirit and a lot of the players here have in their career been written off but have come back and are here today.

"We're not going to be afraid of anyone and will take a forward step always."

But as a World Cup dream draws ever closer for the Socceroos at their camp in Vitoria, Franjic can't help but think back to those days when the alarm would go blaring off at 5am in Melbourne. 

A typical day started at the crack of dawn and would finish close to 10pm as he worked full-time while still finding time to train to keep his football dream alive.

If the Socceroos' World Cup hopes will rely on perseverance and dedication, then Franjic should be the team's poster boy.

Ahead of taking on the world's best players in Brazil, the Brisbane Roar defender has opened up about his never-say-die approach after it appeared he may never get his shot at the big time.

How he doubted whether all the hard work and sacrifice was worth it as he was continually rejected or overlooked for higher honours.

"You tend to doubt yourself the older you get and when you get to 20, 21, 22 and you are always seeing the younger boys getting selected," Franjic said. 

"You start to doubt yourself and think has my opportunity passed? But I always kept a bit of hope knowing one day if I do get an opportunity I'll be ready.

"Luckily one day I did get a chance with Brisbane and I got offered a six week contract and just went from there."

But things could have worked out so differently for the now 26-year-old if he had decided it was all too much and wanted to follow in his family's footsteps.

Franjic's father and grandfather are both carpenters and he almost threw in his football towel and swap the pitch for the construction site.

"It was hard. It was getting to a point in my life where it was either work or football, it was all becoming too much," the right-back said.

"Sometimes I was leaving home at 5am in the morning and would come home at 10pm.

"I know a lot of players in my age group that once they turned 20 or 21 they just threw it away. It's sad because they were very talented players.

"But I just always loved the game, loved watching it, love playing it and that just kept me going."

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Franjic was given a shot with the Roar as an injury replacement and now almost five years on is playing at his first World Cup.

Not bad for a kid whose first sport was basketball before switching to football as an eight-year after realising he was going to be "too short" for hoops.

He now looms as one of coach Ange Postecoglou's oldest defender in a new-look back four for the World Cup ahead of the opening group game against Chile this Friday (Sat morning 8am AEST).

"He gave me the confidence and self-belief and kept playing me week in, week out," Franjic said of Postecoglou, who along with his parents rates as the biggest influence on his career.

"He had that philosophy that I believed in and it didn't matter if you made a mistake, he would keep persisting with you and keep telling me to believe.

"It paid off with those championships (at the Roar) and now I'm at a World Cup."

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