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Australia’s No 1 goalkeeper Mathew Ryan has been hailed as one of the best goalkeepers in the English Premier League since making the switch to Brighton from La Liga last summer. Now the young shot stopper has his sights set on the 2018 FIFA World Cup and is eager to make his mark on a global stage.

There wasn’t much luck for Australia when the World Cup draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia was finally revealed. The tournament, which will start on June 14, sees the Socceroos take on heavyweights France, plus Peru and Denmark in Group C. Australia’s goalkeeper Mathew Ryan believes that the experience he has gained plying his trade in the English Premier League will be vital this summer and insists that there are no ‘easy games’ at this level.

“Every team is at the World Cup for a reason and they deserve to be there,” said Ryan, who joined Brighton & Hove Albion for a record fee back in 2017. “These opponents have knocked teams out to get there and beaten teams like Chile and Italy – and that’s no easy feat.”

Complacency is a powerful thing, you know, so you have to give every opponent the same respect. Things start to go wrong when complacency sets in and teams get punished. In a World Cup you don’t even need to make a mistake to get punished because the margin for error is so minimal at the highest level,” he said.

Australia were the 31st team to qualify for the tournament this summer and they arguably worked harder than anyone else to get there. They travelled a staggering 250,000km to far-flung destinations such as Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Tajikistan, Iran, Japan and Malaysia and eventually booked their place in the tournament with a dramatic 3-1 victory over Honduras in the inter-confederation play-off in Sydney back in November.

Head coach Ange Postecoglou also announced his shock departure soon after successfully guiding Australia through the qualifying stages and was replaced some three months later by Dutchman Bert van Marwijk. Hardly ideal preparation for the biggest football competition on the planet…

Ryan made his senior international debut for Australia back in 2012 during the qualifying stages of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and he has since established himself as Australia’s first-choice goalkeeper, effectively succeeding his childhood idol and English Premier League legend Mark Schwarzer. “Schwarzer is an expert in the Premier League so I see him around and he has been more than willing to help me and offer advice. He was one of my idols growing up and hopefully I can continue to follow in his footsteps for many years to come,” he said.

Ryan, born in New South Wales, Australia, went on to feature in all three of Australia’s games in the 2014 World Cup competition, but they were eventually eliminated in the group stages after defeats to the Netherlands, Chile and Spain. Looking back on the experience, the 26-year-old shot stopper admits those events in Brazil will only help further fuel his determination this summer.

“I wasn’t happy with how I performed but since then I feel like I’ve become a better goalkeeper, and a better person for the experience,” said the former Valencia keeper. “Now I am just trying to take all the lessons I have learnt along the way into my games.” 

Words: Claire Bloomfield

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