Mini-Vinnie ready to assume mantle

The man dubbed ‘Mini-Vinnie’ – Carl Valeri - is ready to assume the mantle that has been vacated by Vince Grella and help get the Socceroos back on track and qualify for the next phase of World Cup qualifiers.

Dubai: The man dubbed ‘Mini-Vinnie- - Carl Valeri - is ready to assume the mantle that has been vacated by Vince Grella and help get the Socceroos back on track and qualify for the next phase of World Cup qualifiers.

With Grella suspended for Saturday-s match against Qatar in Doha, Valeri is confident he can handle the pressure without his more experienced mentor beside him.

Both started against Iraq last Saturday night, with Pim Verbeek deciding on a more defensive approach, to combat the conditions and the expected early onslaught from a desperate Iraq side.

However with Grella coming off at half time, Valeri had to step up in the second half and did so with aplomb, which really showed his promise for the future in the national team.

“Yeah, it was in a way,” when asked, if this game represented his coming of age with the national team. “This is really my first competition football that I have played for Australia; we struggled a little bit, but we actually played better, I felt personally, than what did against Iraq in Brisbane. We obviously played a little bit more defensively, but we were away from home and did well.”

His similar style to Grella makes it hard to pick both in the same team, but Verbeek knows that if his main man in Grella is not available, Valeri is more than capable of filling the role.

“I play that position (defensive or screening midfielder) for club football and each time I have played for Australia, I play in that position, so I feel quite comfortable and getting to know all the boys pretty well now. I feel my confidence is growing; as a player I am growing and for me that-s important.

“We (Valeri and Grella) are very similar; I mean we both went to the AIS and had the same football schooling and we both now play in Italy, so there are a lot of similarities; we obviously play the same role.

“Vinnie-s technically a bit better and understands the game a lot better than I do. So from players like Vinnie and all the others, I just hope to learn and get better.”

Having played the whole game against Iraq, Valeri was forced to do a lot of running in the centre of the park, especially with Australia forced to make the pace in the second half. Not surprisingly he found the hot and humid conditions very uncomfortable, but didn-t want to use that as an excuse for the defeat.

“It was very hot; it didn-t feel that hot at the start, but when you are running around out there; I think at the end, I lost around 3.8 kilos and that-s pretty tough. But it-s expected and it-s the same for them, so no complaints.

“They (legs) go and I was having cramps; I think you could see that with the last ball I gave to Schwarz, I almost put the Iraq fellow on goals, so it was a bit tough, but as I said it was the same for both teams.

“Physically I thought we held our own and there was a period of time where I thought we were actually physically better than them. That-s football and they ended up winning 1-0, but luckily we are in a good position still.

The players have taken the loss on the chin and after a day off to do their own thing, the players are raring to get back into training and prepare for the Qatar game.

“We were a little bit disappointed, but nothing to over the top, because at the end of the day, we are still on top of the group. We are in a great position with two games to go and I don-t think there is anything to worry about; we have just got to get focused and it-s going to be a tough game against Qatar, but we have the quality I feel and we-ve just got to prepare our best for the next game.

“No it shouldn-t,” he said, when asked if the approach to the game against Qatar would change with Qatar joining us on 7 points at the top of the group table. “We have to take every game as it comes and Qatar, we played them at home and beat them 3-0; obviously they were missing some players, but no it doesn-t change anything.

“We-ve still got to go out and do our best and whether we get the three points or one point, we-ll see, but the aim is to win and get through to the next phase as soon as possible.

So what-s his take on the nickname?

“It-s a compliment, but I can see myself tiring of it very quickly, but that-s the way it is. For me to be dubbed ‘Mini-Vinnie- is a great thing, but hopefully one-day I can have my own name.”