Jackson Irvine is convinced Australia's training camp in Turkey will prove hugely beneficial in his country's preparations for this summer's World Cup Finals.
Irvine and 18 of his international team-mates officially got their preparations for Russia underway at the weekend as they took to the training pitch at a five-star resort in Antalya on the Turkish Mediterranean coast, with a further seven players set to arrive once they finish up their club commitments at the end of the 2017/18 domestic campaign.
The Socceroos will spend almost three weeks at their current base, with international friendlies against the Czech Republic (1st June) and Hungary (9th June) also booked in, before heading to Eastern Europe.
Head coach Bert van Marwijk, who was appointed as Ange Postecoglou’s successor in January, and his staff opted to stage the camp in Turkey not only because of its close proximity to Russia but also its warm climate, which would aid the players’ physical preparation ahead of the tournament, and the Tigers’ midfielder was quick to highlight the importance of the team’s time together over the coming weeks.
“It’s vital, absolutely vital,” he said.
“We’re all focused. We’ve got a decent amount of time together ahead of us and it’s a great chance for us to get know the new manager and his staff better along with what their expectations of us all are.
“It’s a 26-man squad and we all need to come together and try to understand what he wants from us as a group. This is the time that the whole squad can work together and do all of the preparation – both tactically and physically – we need to do.
“I can’t stress how important this training camp is. We have to make the most of every single day we have together.”
Having reduced his initial 32-man squad to 26 ahead of his side’s pre-tournament training camp, van Marwijk will have to cut a further three players from his group when announcing Australia’s final squad in 13 days’ time – a day ahead of the submission deadline.
It means the Socceroos’ friendly fixture with the Czech Republic in Austria will provide a final opportunity for all players to press their claims, with Irvine admitting it would be the realisation of a dream to represent his country on the biggest stage in Russia.
“It’s something I dreamt about as a kid when I was kicking the ball around playing with my mates, running around the backyard pretending we were all playing for Australia,” he added.
“I was lucky enough to be at the 2006 tournament in Germany as a 13-year-old fan. To watch my heroes play against Japan and Brazil was an unbelievable experience. I saw Tim Cahill score two goals against Japan and now I’m hoping to be part of the same squad as him to represent my country at the World Cup Finals – it’s absolutely surreal!
“I’m desperate to be in the final squad though. It would be the pinnacle of my career to be selected. It would prove the hard work, dedication and moves you make to have a chance to play at that level have paid off. It would be incredible!
“It won’t be easy though and I’m certain there are still some selection dramas to be had but I’ll be doing everything in my power to make sure I’ve got a seat on the plane that heads to Russia.”