Danny Vukovic is just weeks away from realising a childhood dream when he goes to the FIFA World Cup with the Caltex Socceroos.
But before the gloveman can switch his focus to that and link up with Bert van Marwijk’s squad in Turkey, he has one more job to finish with his club side KRC Genk in Belgium.
In his debut season playing in Europe, Vukovic could cap a memorable maiden campaign by helping Genk earn a spot in the UEFA Europa League.
They’ll host Zulte Waregem - who overcame Lokeren on penalties on Thursday - in a winner-takes-all clash at the Luminus Arena on Monday morning (AEST).
The high-profile clash is not only a huge opportunity for Genk to get to back to playing European football but also a reward for a fine season for the Aussie.
A little over a year ago the then 32-year-old probably thought his hopes of playing in Europe wouldn’t materialise.
But after playing a major role in Sydney FC’s record-breaking Hyundai A-League 2016/17 Season, Genk came calling.
And it’s been a near-perfect marriage between the two.
While it was a tough start for the shot-stopper – he missed the early stage of the season through injury – he was soon in the first team and hasn’t looked back.
Vukovic has made 44 appearances in all competitions, keeping 12 clean sheets to finish third in the Golden Glove standings in Belgium.
But the impact he has made at the club was evidenced by the huge accolade Vukovic was given by Genk’s supporters earlier this month.
The Sydney product was awarded the Golden Shoe and the fans’ Player of the Season.
“I probably didn’t start off as well as I would have wanted to. I made a couple of errors early on, but I think once I settled in and started to adapt to life and football over here, I started getting back to my best form,” Vukovic told PlayersVoice.
“Then in the second half of the season, I really hit my best form. I got ‘player of the month’ two months out of three, and was feeling like myself again.
“It’s been a great experience over here. Every game is a full stadium, a lot of colour and passionate supporters, flares, flags and so on.
“It’s a typical European league, it’s what I grew up watching and what I always wanted to go to Europe to do, so it’s been really, really pleasing.”
But you get the sense ‘Vuka’ won’t be truly content with his debut season in Europe unless Genk can complete one final task.
And he’ll hope to carry that momentum to Russia, where the Caltex Socceroos face a tricky Group C with games against France, Denmark and Peru.
“There’s no reason we can’t do well. We’ve put good performances together and it’s really just about finding that form at the right time, and that’s why we’re going into camp a month before the World Cup to try to get into the best possible shape that we can,” Vukovic said.
“We’ve spoken about it a lot during the qualification campaign. We don’t want to be the team that’s happy to qualify for the World Cup.
“We want to be a team that actually does something there now, so this is our chance to try to do that.”
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