He’s been to a World Cup, was part of the Asian Cup winning squad and is a mainstay of Ange Postecoglou’s Socceroos squad but next week’s clash with Kyrgyzstan is something special for defender Alex Wilkinson.
“I was drafted in at the last minute for the World Cup and was lucky enough to play in the Asian Cup but I’ve never played a World Cup qualifier,” Wilkinson told FFA TV.
“It’s something very different form the friendly games you play basically all of last year. Now you are playing for something three or four years down the track that’s such a huge reward.
“I’d love to be able to play my part and help qualify us again for another massive tournament in the World Cup.”
With Trent Sainsbury absent from this squad due to injury, Wilkinson looms as the logical replacement to partner Matthew Spiranovic in the heart of defence.
He is one of just two players – along with Tim Cahill – currently in season and supremely match-fit with K-League side Jeonbuk Motors.
It’s made the gruelling training sessions in the heat of Dubai a little bit easier for the 30-year-old.
“It’s nice to come in in the middle of the season. We’ve played a lot of games in Korea at the moment,” Wilkinson said.
“We’re involved in the K-League, [AFC] Champions League and the FA Cup so the games have been coming thick and fast which is always good.
“I’m coming in nice and healthy and fit which is great. All the other boys who have finished their seasons have been put on programs by the sports science staff, so everyone’s come in looking sharp."
While admitting he still doesn’t know too much about next week’s opponents, Wilkinson’s experience travelling around and playing in Asia means he knows they can’t take anything for granted.
Kyrgyzstan also made a perfect start to their World Cup qualifying campaign with a 3-1 win away from home against Bangladesh on Thursday night.
“It’s a great start for them, I can’t imagine playing away in Bangladesh would be easy.
“To come away with a win is a perfect start for them. They’ll come back home with a lot of confidence and they’ll be looking to get a result against us which will set them up very well for their campaign to come.
“We’re expecting a very difficult game. The boss [Postecoglou] has been clear that this qualification process is going to be very difficult.
“The places we have to go, the teams we have to play are all going to be difficult games and we have to be 100 percent focused and 100 percent on our game to get results.”