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Melbourne Heart left-back Aziz Behich has been handed his first ever call-up for the Socceroos in Holger Osieck’s squad to take on South Korea next week.
In the 19-man squad to take to the field in the international friendly, five players including Behich will be representing the senior Australian squad for the first time.
The young Heart defender has already represented his country on numerous occasions, donning the green and gold in five caps for Australia’s under-23 Olyroos.
Behich was understandably surprised by the announcement.
“It was a really good feeling when I found out,” he said.
“I was pretty shocked to be honest, I didn’t know what to say when I got told, but it was really exciting.
“I got the call from the team manager Gary Moretti and got told then.”
Behich credited Melbourne Heart’s first coach John van’t Schip in guiding him towards having a more prolific impact in the A-League competition.
He initially played as a left winger, before making the transition to his current playing position as a left-back.
“He (van’t Schip) gave me the chance…and threw me out at left back in the (2010) Derby game,” he said.
“It was the first time I’ve played there. So he was a big influence; that’s what a player wants when a coach has confidence in him and just brings the best out of the player.”
Behich mentioned Heart’s coaching staff worked consistently on his defensive capabilities during the transitional phase to becoming a more defensive player, and still endeavours to focus and improve on this aspect with each training session.
The South Korea-bound Socceroos squad includes a mixture of youth and experienced heads, including Socceroos stalwarts Lucas Neill and Mark Schwarzer, while former Heart striker Eli Babalj has also been given a berth in the team.
Behich said the combination of experienced heads he can work off, while having the familiarity of a former teammate will put him in good stead for a solid performance in his first potential senior appearance.
“It will be good to play with the likes of Schwarzer and captain Lucas Neill. Obviously they’re the face of the national team, so I’ll be honoured to play with them and put the shirt on as well,” he said.
“I got told that (Babalj’s inclusion in the Socceroos squad) this morning. It will be good to reunite with Eli, I kinda miss him around here, I was pretty close with Eli so it’ll be good to see him again.”
With a 1-1-3 record heading into round six, Behich said the Heart was unfazed with its position at the rear of the pack after five rounds, saying John Aloisi’s newly implemented game plan will be realised come the end of the season.
While his appearance for the Socceroos will be at the back of his mind, his priority is still putting in a respectable effort for the Heart when they line up against defending A-League champions Brisbane Roar on Friday night at AAMI Park.
“I’m just focussed on Friday night first and once that’s finished, I’ll look forward to the Korea trip.
“We’ve played well in nearly all our games, we’ve created a lot of chances but we just haven’t put them in the back of the net. And it’s disappointing but I think once they start rolling in I don’t think they’ll stop.
“We’re still working towards what John wants us to do, and we’ve set ourselves as a team goal and at the end of the season we’ll achieve that. It’s still early in the season and…everyone’s confident and we’re going into Friday to win the game.”