'I was deleted from the list'- How Serbia snub led Milos Degenek to the Socceroos

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Serbia's loss stands to be Australia's gain

Named in Bert van Marwijk's 26-man squad for a pre-World Cup camp, Milos Degenek is on the cusp of representing Australia on the biggest stage, but his route to the green and gold was far from simple.

Born in Croatia, the defender was forced to flee from the country as a refugee at just 18 months old, ending up in Serbia where he lived for a number of years before moving to Australia.

Honing his craft at the Australian Institute of Sport, he was called up to the U17 Australian side making two appearances at the U17 World Cup and scoring a goal against Portugal.

But with his international future in the green and gold unclear, Degenek leapt at the chance to play for the Serbia U19 team only for his future in that set-up to be curtailed in very mysterious circumstances. 

"I was a member of the Serbian youth team, and the coach was Ljubinko Drulovic," Degenek told Kurir.

"I've played eight games in qualifications. Before going to the EP, some people told me that I did not have the necessary papers and literally I was deleted from the list. 

"I do not know what happened here. I had Serbian citizenship, passport...I do not know what else was needed. 

"I did not want to dig deeper, because I know some people in the Alliance.

"I went to Terazije, in the embassy, ​​wrote letters from FIFA ... From the Alliance they told me that they will solve it. 

"When I saw some people, what they are doing and what kind of unfair motives they have, I decided to withdraw, because I do not work that way."

Milos Degenek

That decision would lead him back to the U23 Australian side before he was called up to the senior side in 2016.

After playing a key role in World Cup qualifying under Ange Postecoglou, Degenek will be hoping new coach Bert van Marwijk also gives him a chance to shine after a particularly windy road to Russia. 

Still cherishing his Serbian roots, the defender heaped praise upon countryman Milos Ninkovic who has been lighting up the A-League in recent seasons. 

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"Ninkovic is the most appreciated footballer in Australia," he said.

"[His arrival is] the best thing that happened to Australian football. He has given Australia more than Alessandro Del Piero.

"A phenomenal guy, doing a great job, a unique player. Australia is honoured to have such a player in the A-League."

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