Uncapped Socceroo and potential debutant Nick D’Agostino has signaled a statement of intent ahead of Australia’s mammoth World Cup qualifier on Thursday night against Japan.
“We want to qualify for this World Cup and we’re going to qualify for this World Cup and on Thursday night we’re going to win this match,” said Melbourne Victory’s in-form attacker.
“That’s the belief we have in ourselves and you have to have that belief if you want to win games.”
D’Agostino exudes an air of confidence ahead of the match at Stadium Australia, which is understandable given his form at club level. After starting the A-League season behind Italian import Francesco Margiotta in Victory’s pecking order of centre-forwards, D’Agostino’s performances have warranted consistent selection in the starting XI after impressing off the bench early in the season.
Since being trusted to start games under Popovic, the 24-year-old has embraced his opportunity and taken it with both hands. The direct and powerful striker has amassed five goals in his last four games including two goals against Japanese side Vissel Kobe during Victory’s Asian Champions League qualifying defeat last week.
These performances have given D’Agostino a new sense of belief that he can make a difference against a strong level of opposition if called upon by the Socceroos coaching staff.
“We’re playing against Japanese players and I know what to expect, I know that they’re good technically, tactically, physically and they’re very sharp on the ball,” he said.
“But I’ve had this conversation with Arnie after that game [against Kobe] once he congratulated me on being selected on the phone, I had the conversation with him that they’re not that great defensively so there’s plenty of opportunities to score goals.”
While D’Agostino has not been given an indication of what role he will play should he take the field against either Japan or Saudi Arabia, this determination should lead him in good stead if he is called upon in either fixture.
After not being afforded many chances at A-League level as a youngster during his stints at Brisbane and Perth, D’Agostino has grown exponentially as a player in a short space of time.
The Olyroo graduate owes this rise to two specific mentors who have helped him with the mental side of football, particularly with regards to belief in his ability.
“Tony Popovic and Graham Arnold are the two biggest ones,” he explained.
“The self-belief they’ve instilled in me and the confidence that they’ve added to me and my game, just to go out there to believe in myself…there’s no bigger feeling than going out there and knowing you’re gonna help the team and put the ball in the back of the net.”
In the absence of first-choice centre-forward Adam Taggart, D’Agostino could be tasked with providing some spark off the bench with his acceleration and ability to stretch the opposition’s last line often a crucial asset against tired legs late in games.
With a crowd of around 40,000 expected to greet D’Agostino and the Socceroos on Thursday night, the in-form poacher will hope that he can etch his name into Australian footballing history with a contribution on debut for the national team in such a crucial encounter.
Image Source: Football Australia