Nikita Rukavytsya hasn’t played for the Caltex Socceroos in almost four years but believes he’s "matured" as a player and is ready to make an impact for the national team.
The Israeli-based attacker was a surprise inclusion in Ange Postecoglou’s initial 30-man squad for the make-or-break home and away two-legged series against Syria.
But after making the final 23-man squad, Rukavytsya insists he’s ready to play a role for the Socceroos if called-upon by Postecoglou.
“It’s always great to represent Australia. I’ve been away for a while but I’m very happy to be back,” Rukavytsya told reporters in Melaka, Malaysia on Wednesday.
“Hopefully I can help and contribute in these two important games coming up.
“I’m here to contribute. If I have to play, I’m ready. If I have to play some part, I’m always ready.”
Rukavytsya burst onto the national team scene after a scintillating stint in the Hyundai A-League with Perth Glory in 2007-09, before earning a move to Holland with FC Twente.
After stints in Belgium, Germany and a return to Australia with Western Sydney Wanderers, Rukavytsya has spent the last three years in the Israeli Pro league with Beitar Jerusalem and Maccabi Haifar.
While not one of the bigger leagues in European football, Rukavytsya says he’s feeling settled and enjoying his football in Israel.
“I think a lot of people don’t know about the league but it’s an interesting one,” he said.
“Some teams try to play [football]. Some of the lower teams they sit back so it makes it difficult to break them down.
“There’s top four, five teams that are at a good level. A few of them play in the Europa League, sometimes Champions League. It’s pretty good.”
While Tomi Juric is likely to start as Australia’s first-choice striker against Syria, Rukavytsya adds depth to the Socceroos’ attacking options and something a little different.
He's direct, quick and has a good eye for goal.
But with the Socceroos set to deploy a front three, the 30-year-old says he’s comfortable playing in any number of roles for the national team.
“I play as either a central striker or on the wing. If the formation is a 4-3-3 I can play as a lone striker or on the wing,” he said.
“If it’s a 4-4-2 I can play as a second striker.”