Socceroo central defender Matt Spiranovic has paid tribute to his club and coach for helping him return to peak form with the green and gold.
Speaking after the Socceroos’ first official training session in Vitoria at their training base the Arena Unimed Sicoo, Spiranovic was upbeat about the team’s first two days in Brazil.
He said the training centre was “ideal” and the team was settling in well to Brazil after the long flight from Sydney.
What’s more, the stylish 25-year-old stopper was quick to pay tribute to his club Western Sydney Wanderers and coach Tony Popovic, who in concert helped lay the platform for a stunning season in the Hyundai A-League and subsequent recall to the green and gold.
“Definitely, it’s a bonus having a coach who’s played at the highest level and played in the same position as myself,” he said on Friday.
“It’s nice to have that constant advice and those tips passed on every day in training.”
Wanderers coach Tony Popovic was in similar shoes to ‘Spira’ at the 2006 FIFA World Cup – playing as a central defender for the Socceroos. And now Spiranovic, who signed a two-year contract extension with the Wanderers before leaving Australia, is reaping the benefits.
“It’s been a great learning curve for me this season,” he added.
Spiranovic hailed his first year in the Hyundai A-League as being fundamental to his current strong fitness levels.
He goes into this World Cup campaign on the back of a full season that ended on A-League grand final day in early May, as well as a successful AFC Asian Champions League campaign.
Despite missing the Socceroos’ most recent hit-out against South Africa last Monday, it’s been the ideal preparation for a World Cup at a club renowned for its physical preparation.
“Every footballer wants to be playing week in week out. I was able to achieve that this year by joining the Wanderers, which was the ideal move for me at the time with the set up at the club and the coach Tony Popovic,” said the Geelong born star.
“I was able to play my best football.”
And playing his best football is what will be needed against the might of Chile, Holland then Spain.
Foreign media quizzed the former Bundesliga and J-League star on the task at hand and Spiranovic offered a similar response to many other Socceroos in Brazil.
“If the other teams under-estimate us or become complacent we can definitely take advantage of that,” he warned.
“It’s clear we play three world class opponents and it’s a fantastic challenge for us.
“We’re up against some of the best football sides in the world and we’re all relishing that.
“I’m sure come the first game against Chile we’ll give a good account of ourselves.”
Spiranovic, a former 2008 Olympics representative, added that the team is enjoying its new environment.
“Our base, it’s very relaxing and it’s a great environment to just focus on our football and the pitch and facilities are excellent.”
“It’s great to be here now and it’s sunk in now obviously from the trip to the airport to the hotel with the police escort and the security and everything.
“It’s definitely sunk in now. And I’m sure in the next few days and weeks when the other teams start coming in it’ll really start to feel like our first game is on the way.
And finally, asked by an overseas journalist if he had any plans to visit tourist spots in Vitoria the Socceroo offered a diplomatic response.
“I haven’t thought that far ahead. I’m just focusing on the training.”
The Socceroos play Croatia in a friendly next Friday night (kick off 9am AEST time Saturday morning live on Fox Sports) ahead of their tournament opener against Chile on June 13.
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Matthew Spiranovic talks to media in Vitoria