Australian midfielder Keanu Baccus has relished the experience of getting consistent minutes in Graham Arnold’s squad, being rewarded for his positive form for Scottish Premiership side St Mirren.
The former Western Sydney Wanderer has featured in six of the last seven international fixtures, after appearing in each of the four games during the national team’s run to the knockout stages of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Baccus and the Socceroos have made an almost 18-hour trip to Kuwait, where they’ll face Palestine in a World Cup Qualifier early on Wednesday morning.
The Green and Gold come off a thumping 7-0 victory over Bangladesh in Melbourne last Thursday, where Baccus played 65 minutes.
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In the wake of the one-sided Socceroos victory, Baccus describes his pride in receiving call-ups to the national squad in recent months.
“I’m honoured to be playing more, just grateful to be selected in squads, it’s always been a dream of mine since a young kid,” he said.
“Taking that leap has been a big thing for me, to progress, to improve my game and get these kinds of things under my belt.
“Buzzing to keep going, take it game by game and do the best I can.”
Exceeding most people’s expectations, Baccus made a name for himself at last year’s World Cup.
Coming off the bench in each of the three group-stage matches in Qatar, he would end up getting his chance at a starting role in the team’s midfield for their Round of 16 clash with eventual Champions Argentina.
Hard work and preparation are among the qualities that the midfielder has credited for helping him get that starting position against the best team in the world.
“It took a lot of hard work and preparation, the dreams I had as a young kid, I ran with them and when I got my chance, I feel like I took it,” he said.
“Those stages really helped as well, playing in big games against Tunisia, Denmark, France, Argentina, it really taught me a lot, but it made me go away with more experience and hunger to come into the fold a bit more.”
Hostile atmospheres are part and parcel of the World Cup experience, and with four of Australia’s last seven fixtures post-World Cup being overseas, the squad has had to learn to adjust to unloving crowds.
With the upcoming World Cup Qualifying match against Palestine once again being held outside of Australia, Baccus says combative atmospheres have allowed some of the more inexperienced Socceroos to mesh in with the squad.
“All those games in the lead-up were massive for us, we didn’t treat them like friendlies, we wanted to win as if three points were on the line,” he said.
“They really got us ready, some of us younger boys [got to] integrate into the team and play more minutes, it really got us ready and what’s to come for the qualifiers,’ he added.
Admitting the 7-0 win over Bangladesh earlier in the week was unexpected even by Australia’s expectations, Baccus believes the Socceroos squad has strong physical qualities, as well as a hard-working mindset.
“Every game of Football is tough, we didn’t really expect that [seven goal win], but we do our best and physically I thought we were really good the other day, we worked hard and we worked as a team, we sort of run all over them in a way,” he said.
“That’s the motto of Australian Football, we’re all tough, physical, and we can put goals away when we need to, so hopefully that continues.”
Baccus and the Socceroos continue their march towards the 2026 FIFA World Cup when they meet Palestine at the Jabar Al-Ahmed International Stadium in Kuwait, with kick-off commencing on Wednesday the 22nd of November at 1:00 AM AEDT.
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