From the scrapheap to the Maracana? Harry Kewell's biggest challenge

Does one of Australia's best ever footballers still have what it takes to make an impact for club and country in a World Cup year? Guy Hand asks the question

Stop for a moment and think about the size of the challenge Harry Kewell is taking on as his A-League season commences on Saturday night.

In June, he was training on his own in a park. No club, having barely played in the previous year.

The aim when he signed with Melbourne Heart? To be at the World Cup finals in Brazil 12 months later.

Now we're about to see just how realistic Kewell's hopes are of rejoining the Socceroos fold when the Heart take on his old club Melbourne Victory at Etihad Stadium.

It has been 19 months since Kewell last played in the A-League. He's played just three league games since – at a questionable standard in Qatar.

Make no mistake, this is emerging from semi-retirement. Usually professional players only have this length of downtime during serious injury.

The challenge he faces to get to Brazil is massive. In his favour, Kewell has had something he hasn't had for quite some time in his professional career going into his Heart debut – a long, uninterrupted pre-season.

What it has made of Kewell will show what Kewell will make of his season.

By around 9.30pm Saturday, we'll know exactly what nick Kewell is in, and whether he has any hope of re-entering Holger Osieck's plans.

With Tim Cahill, Josh Kennedy, Tommy Oar, Tom Rogic and Brett Holman blocking the three roles Kewell can play in an Osieck-led national team, the 35-year-old is going to need a stellar season to force his way into the reckoning.

Nothing less than a dozen goals and being in Johnny Warren Medal contention will do

And he'll need instant impact.

Kewell slow-burned his way through his Melbourne Victory year, hampered by arriving at the club late and the Victory's annus horribilis.

Now, there's no time to do anything but catch fire in a hurry. Especially as he is Heart's skipper and likely playmaker.

Heart have nothing to lose whether Kewell fires or fails.

He is reportedly playing for wages equating to a can of Coke and a Mars Bar.

For coach John Aloisi and canny Heart football manager John Didulica, this could be the best piece of business since Lieutenant Dan bought Forrest Gump shares in "some kind of fruit company" – as he referred to Apple Computer.

Kewell brings relevance and big-name appeal to the club. If he fires and can play as well as he can, success for the club will follow, no question.

Kewell has faced big challenges before. The succession of injury problems which nearly forced him into retirement at Liverpool. His role as a constant lightning rod for drama at national team level in big tournaments. Not being able to find a club in Europe, and literally being forced back to Australia to refind his way.

But his World Cup quest is the biggest of all. Can Harry go from the scrapheap to the Maracana in 12 months? 

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