Looming as the man able to spark the Socceroos against deep-lying defences at the Asian Cup, ambitious attacker Riley McGree insists he is fit and ready to start against Syria.
McGree, who recently returned from a foot injury, came off the bench against India, then went on a brilliant run and delivered a perfect assist for Jordy Bos to score.
His speed and creativity could be just the ticket for the Socceroos to crack open Syria’s defence and seal progression to the round of 16 in Qatar.
“Physically I feel very good,” McGree said ahead of Thursday’s match at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Doha.
“I feel ready and willing to contribute in any which way I’m required, and if that be starting or off the bench again I’m more than ready.
“Being out with my injury, I’ve come back with maybe a little bit of a different outlook on the opportunities I do get and not taking any for granted.”
McGree played down the suggestion he could be the Socceroo to take games by the scruff of the neck but agrees with coach Graham Arnold that he can be a consistent goal-scoring threat.
“As an attacker, you want to score, you want to assist, you want to contribute in any which way you can,” he said.
“For me to take my game to the next level I need more goals on a consistent basis, or at least threatening the goal.”
Now 25, McGree, who has thrived at English Championship club Middlesbrough, is entering his prime years as a footballer.
“I like to think of it as there’s no limit to when you can be or can’t be, or will be or won’t be in your prime, but I definitely think it comes with experience,” he said.
“And the more games I play and the more experience I accrue, then naturally I will be more consistent and grow and be a better player.
“But over the next however many years I play football, I just want to play at the highest level possible and represent Australia in as many tournaments, World Cups, Asian Cups (as possible), as many caps as I can.
“Growing every day as an individual and as a player, improving is the main goal for me.
“Wherever that takes me, I’m looking forward to finding out.”
That starts with dealing with Syria, who are likely to follow India’s lead in using a deep-lying defence to frustrate the Socceroos.
“We know what we need to do, and we’re going to be prepared for these situations,” McGree said.
“The main thing is just being patient and trusting in the way in which the coaching staff have set us up to play.
“Really trusting each other that we’re going to get the result in the end.”