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Socceroo’s sobering reality check on ‘pressure’

DOHA: The Socceroos are 48 hours or so from a must-win World Cup game. Pressure? What pressure?

When you compare it to fleeing war-torn Yugoslavia as a child, any football match does seem pithy in contrast.

Milos Degenek and his family fled the Balkan region when he was six years old, and he’s blossomed into another proud migrant success story for the Socceroos – but when asked by Wide World of Sports how he would handle the sense of occasion going into Sunday morning’s (AEDT) clash with Tunisia, he offered a sobering comparison.

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“The fact where you say ‘must-win’ game where you think it’s pressure,” he said.

“But I said to the boys the other day as well, that’s not pressure. Pressure is me as an 18-month-old baby fleeing a war. Pressure is me as a six-year-old being in the middle of a war.

Kylian Mbappe of France embraces Milos Degenek of Australia after the Group D match. (Photo by Maddie Meyer - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

“That’s pressure. Pressure’s not a must-win football game, because you can win or lose, but I don’t think anyone’s gonna die – you know that’s not pressure.”

It does put things in perspective, but regardless of the stakes, he still wants to deliver a tough and physical performance against a Tunisian team that have shown they can do likewise. 

“This is just a joy of wanting to get better; wanting to have something to say to your grandkids, to your friends back home when you have coffee and say you won a game at a World Cup, you got out of the group,” he said.

“That’s what the boys understand and that’s how we’re gonna take this. Obviously we wanna win the game, there’s no doubt about it. And I think everything from yesterday’s training is focused on that and winning that game and I think we have it in our squad if we match them in terms of intensity and desire to win will be greater, then I think we will win.”

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The MLS-based defender has used the term “lion mentality” in the past to try to motivate the squad around him – and against a Tunisia team that showed immense amounts of fight and passion against Denmark, he believes that’s what Australia needs.

“Lion mentality is you either eat or you get eaten, and that’s the simplest way to put it. I used this term before the Peru game with the boys, I said ‘there’s bread on the table’.

“Either we eat tonight; my kids, my wife and my family eats tonight, or they eat and my kids go home to sleep hungry and my wife as well – and I don’t want that to happen. I use that term, and when the bread’s on the table I want to take it and keep my kids and my wife happy.”

But do his fellow Socceroos have it too? Of course they do.

“I’ve been trying to insert it into the younger players, especially the ones that are new here and that are constantly asking for advice every day. I don’t need to say things like that to Maty Ryan or Aaron Mooy, or Matty Leckie.

“They’ve got their own ways. But most of the other guy know what I’m talking about and they understand where I’m coming from.”

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