Goalkeeping can be a cruel subplot to ‘The Beautiful Game’; that is not something Zeljko Kalac needs any lecturing on.
Often competing with the likes of Mark Schwarzer and Mark Bosnich among others the right to stand in between the sticks for Australia, the former AC Milan goalkeeper knows exactly what it is like to stay waiting in the wings.
When Graham Arnold’s 26-man squad to take on the world was released, a notable omission left Australia baffled; with the former AC Milan goalkeeper sharing the views of most Australians when realising there was no room for Nagoya Grampus custodian Mitch Langerak.
“I don’t know the full reasons, I think everyone is quite clear Mitch Langerak should be at the World Cup,” Kalac said when speaking to Kick360.
“I think it’s clear, he plays every match, he’s been outstanding for the past years in Japan, he deserves to go the World Cup.
“A lot comes down to loyalty, I say this in the nicest way possible because it wouldn’t have been easy for Arnie to pick his squad, Maty Ryan has been Arnie’s number one goalkeeper from day dot, so there is a loyalty factor there in the manager that Maty Ryan is going to be the number one goalkeeper at the World Cup.
“Whatever the situation is behind the scenes with Mitch Langerak, I actually don’t know and I actually really don’t want to know, because I don’t want to get into the politics because everyone makes their own choices.”
This World Cup will be vastly different from every other iteration previous, with the change in season a massive wildcard having the potential to level the playing field somewhat.
Australia’s clash with France will come only nine days after the final A-League Men’s match took place, as domestic leagues around the world temporarily halted hostilities in an unusual occurrence.
Every nation in the world will enter this tournament with match fitness higher than usual as a result of recent football, something less pronounced at international tournaments gone by.
Kalac is sceptical about how well Australia’s traditional high-pressing style will hold up as a result of that, fearing trying to play the Australian way may well be to their detriment.
“I think they will be prepared fantastically, they have got a good coaching staff that will have them prepared.
“I’ll tell you what, I think the difference between this World Cup and the other World Cups, a lot of teams are going to come in fatigued, some are going to come in fresh, and I think the Socceroos are going to come in fresh.
“They all finished their seasons one week ago, and they are going straight into a World Cup, so every team is going to be fit, all the players are going to be fit, and Australia is no different.
“We’ve been known to run teams off the park because off our fitness levels, we want to press and we want to play the Aussie style.
“The other team will be just as fit this time, so it’s going to be difficult.”
Part of Guus Hiddink’s charges in Australia’s first World Cup foray in 32 years back in 2006, the Sydney United academy graduate deputised for Mark Schwarzer in a crucial group stage match against Croatia.
Featuring in Stuttgart, a night on which Australia qualified out of the World Cup group stages for the first, and so far only time in its history, the former AC Milan and Leicester City was a part of history.
No other side donning the famous green-and-gold shirt has achieved what Kalac was a part of achieving, and Qatar is not the place the former custodian sees that changing.
“Do I think we can qualify out of the group stages? No.”
“We play against one of the favourites in France, one of the best teams in the world, Denmark is very, very underestimated and a strong team, so I don’t think we can beat those two.
“If we win against Tunisia, I think we have done a great job at the World Cup.”