He’s one of the most experienced players in Graham Arnold’s squad and Aziz Behich is relishing the chance to assume more of a leadership role on the Caltex Socceroos’ journey to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.
Behich has 36 senior caps to his name, with only six other players in Australia’s 23-man squad to face Kuwait having amassed more.
In a squad with a host of fresh faces and players at the start of their international careers, the 28-year-old’s experience will be vital when the Caltex Socceroos open their qualifying quest in Kuwait on Wednesday morning (AEST).
It’s a responsibility Behich - who had the honour of being named the 60th captain in Caltex Socceroos history in June's friendly against Korea Republic - is only too happy to assume.
“Something you dream of as a little kid is to just play for your country. I’m grateful Arnie gave me the chance to lead the boys out that night,” Behich reflected to socceroos.com.au.
“The boys put in a great performance so it was pretty easy to lead them out.
“My job in camp was just to lead by example, set the standard at training so the new boys could see what we have been working on. It was a proud moment for myself.”
Behich added: “We’ve got a strong group at the moment.
“I think we have a mixture of experienced and inexperienced players, it’s just for us to be at the front and show the way for the new boys coming in to camp or have less caps than us.”
Behich heads into the Kuwait clash on the back of some excellent form with his Turkish Superliga side Istanbul Basaksehir.
PREVIEW: Kuwait v Caltex Socceroos
After making the move from Dutch side PSV Eindhoven in the off-season, the Melbourne-born defender has settled seamlessly back into life in Turkey.
He has started all three league games for which he has been available, is set to play UEFA Europa League football, where he will face Roma, Wolfsburg and Borussia Monchengladbach.
“As a footballer you just want to be playing and that’s where your hunger is,” Behich says.
“I worked hard in pre-season and started the first three games in the league.
“I’m just looking forward to kicking on and the Europa League as well.”
He added: “I’m living in a great city and I’ve joined a great club with high ambitions and high goals of winning leagues and qualifying for European cups.
“It’s been an easy transition for myself, the club's been very good, the board the president, the players… it’s been great.”
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After a week-long training camp in Dubai, the Caltex Socceroos are now set to head to Kuwait to finalise preparations for Wednesday morning’s (1.30am AEST) clash.
“It’s been a good start to the camp, a lot of energy from the boys and everyone is excited to be back in the camp. It’s a new start, of an exciting journey for us,” Behich said.
“It’s obviously been really humid and hot so we’re trying to acclimatise here which has been really good. Now looking forward to moving over to Kuwait.
“We’ve used a lot of players since Arnie has taken over. A lot of the players in this camp have had a taste of how we want to play and how the coach has set us up.
“We have a great squad, we have great depth, so we’re really excited.”
Watch Kuwait v Australia from 1:30am AEST on Wednesday 11 September live on FOX SPORTS, Kayo Sports, and via the My Football Live App, Live, Fast and Data Free for Telstra mobile customers.