Adelaide United shot-stopper Joe Gauci has declared he’s ready to do a job for the Socceroos at the Asian Cup should captain and No.1 Mat Ryan fail to prove his fitness.
Australia begin their campaign in Qatar against India on Saturday night, with Ryan reportedly touch-and-go to be fit after a cheekbone injury that’s sidelined him for a month.
Gauci took Ryan’s place in goal for the Socceroos’ 2-0 friendly win against Bahrain on Sunday, with the 23-year-old admitting it had been a nervy experience earning just his second full cap.
Skipper Ryan has been a stalwart for the side at major tournaments, having played in all of Australia’s 21 World and Asian Cup matches since 2014.
He has big gloves to fill, but Gauci knows he has earned his place in the squad and is ready to seize any opportunity that comes his way.
“I’m here firstly because of my performances at Adelaide … I’ve been picked for a reason,” he said from Qatar.
“I’m also here to learn and develop. I’ve got two fantastic experienced goalkeepers in Maty and Lawrence (Thomas) that I’m working with … (I’m) being a sponge and just asking them questions and learning off them.
“If the opportunity is presented to me, I’m 100 per cent ready to go and do a job for Australia … to get a cap in a tournament, it would be a dream come true.”
Australia play India on Saturday and Syria five days later, before rounding out their Group I matches against Uzbekistan on January 23.
Coach Graham Arnold last week said he believed Ryan could be fit to face India, with Gauci adding the faceguard-wearing No.1 looked sharp in training.
Gauci made his debut for the national team in a 2-1 defeat to Ecuador last year, impressing with a number of sharp saves and building his case to become the Socceroos’ next first-choice keeper.
Arnold preferred him over Western Sydney Wanderers’ Thomas for the Bahrain contest, with Gauci rarely tested.
“It was definitely a lot quieter than my first game, a little less action at my end,” the Adelaide stopper said.
“But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, there’s definitely some nerves there.
“Probably the first 20 to 30 minutes, I was maybe not as settled in the game mentally as I would have liked.
“(In) the second half I felt really quite comfortable and was pleased with the actions that I had, though they were few and far between.
“It’s two more caps than I ever thought I would get, so I was loving every minute out there.”