12 April, 2024
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Socceroos can thrive on Europe’s big stages: Maty Ryan

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Socceroos captain Maty Ryan believes it’s time for more of his teammates to play in European soccer’s big leagues – and suggests top clubs could do worse than taking a gamble on them.

But the goalkeeper, along with Harry Souttar the only current squad member to have played in England’s Premier League, warns any ambitious Socceroo must still overcome the prejudices and misconceptions that make life more difficult for Aussie players.

The skipper was left both frustrated and encouraged by the 1-0 loss to England in Friday’s friendly in front of 80,000 at Wembley, sensing the near-miss was another positive step for the Socceroos.

His side, without a single player from Europe’s five top leagues, largely matched England’s Premier League-dominated line-up, only to succumb to one inattentive moment in defence which Jack Grealish and goalscorer Ollie Watkins pounced on.  

It left 31-year-old Ryan, now in the Dutch Eredivisie with AZ Alkmaar after Premier League spells with Brighton and Arsenal, reflecting on how the Socceroos could benefit from being thrust into more challenging leagues.

“Having more players in the top-five leagues would be the perfect scenario,” said Ryan. 

 Maty Ryan is one of just two current Socceroos to have played in the Premier League. Image by AP PHOTO 

“I believe they belong there, 100 per cent. They all give a great account of themselves and if they got the opportunities from a club bringing them in, then I’d have no doubt that they could step up and do that. 

“Exposure and experience at that top level and seeing the wits and the little skills in which teams and individuals at the top level get the job done, that’s how you learn and grow. 

“Just like the goal that won the game at Wembley.”

More European clubs should take a gamble on them, he said.

“I’m probably biased, obviously, but I’ve seen it first-hand how these guys, when they’ve had the opportunities, have taken them with both hands,” said Ryan.

He believes the Wembley showcase and Tuesday’s (Wednesday AEDT) follow-up ‘Soccer Ashes’ clash with New Zealand across London at Brentford can only help change outmoded perceptions of Australian players.

“For whatever reason, I guess they (European clubs) view Australians as perhaps not being up there with the rest of the world – but it’s a misconception,” said Ryan.

 England’s Ollie Watkins bearing down on Ryan in the Wembley international. Image by AP PHOTO 

“That was always Ange’s (Ange Postecoglou) themes in team talks. The rest of the world don’t quite understand what it means to be an Australian footballer and what we have to endure and go through in order to do the things we love in playing football in Europe.

“So far away from home, the international travel, the perception of the rest of the world not thinking that we’re we’re much cop as footballers … we have to overcome all those challenges when we get over to Europe and showcase ourselves. 

“You’re behind the eight-ball being Australian – but that doesn’t stop us from pushing and giving all we’ve got to try and continue to prove the people wrong. It’s motivation and fuel to do that.

“But I think the biggest thing we’re all feeling at the moment is the optimism and the the progress and the growth that we’re having as a football side. 

“We’re an ambitious group and against this high-level opposition like England we are facing, we’re so close to knocking them off. 

“We’re a competitive bunch, we want to go out and do the country proud by getting wins – and these sorts of experiences are exactly what we need to improve and grow.”

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