By John Greco
Socceroo Mathew Leckie didn't take up football until he was 11, with AFL his first sport growing up in Melbourne's western suburbs. Now, he's a rising star of the World Cup as Australia prepare to face the Netherlands on Wednesday.
"I was always AFL, everything in my family was always AFL," Leckie told www.socceroos.com.au
"My family are all into AFL and they love Essendon, so growing up it was AFL and not football.
"It wasn't until I changed schools that I started playing soccer.
"I went to Albion North in Sunshine; it was more of an international school so a few more kids were playing [football].
"That's where I started mucking around and ended up going down to the local club and never looked back from there."
As he got older, Leckie spent two seasons at Bulleen Lions in Melbourne as a semi-professional before catching his first break with Adelaide United in the A-League.
After an impressive couple of seasons for the Reds, he won a move to German club Borussia Monchengladbach in 2011 and has remained in the country ever since.
The 23-year-old has enjoyed a superb season with Frankfurt in 2. Bundesliga, which has won him a move to FC Ingolstadt for next season.
Though after blitzing the Chile flanks in the Socceroos' 3-1 loss in their opening group game at the World Cup, a number of bigger European clubs reportedly have him on their radar.
"It's definitely a great league for improving," he said of German club football.
"I think in the past maybe five, 10 years ago you didn't hear much about it but now people are speaking about the Bundesliga as one of the best leagues in the world.
"It definitely suits my game. It's quite a physical league and I like that style.
"I've become a better player. I feel I developed technically since I left A-League and that's naturally going to happen when you're over there playing with better players.
"In football you learn something every day and hopefully I can continue to improve."
Leckie looms as a key player for the Socceroos if they are to complete 'mission improbable' against Netherlands then Spain.
First up it's the Dutch in Porto Alegre on Wednesday (Thursday, 2am AEST) at the refurbished 56,000 capacity Estadio Beira-Rio.
Equally comfortable wide on the right or as a leading striker, Leckie's pace and energy will be crucial if Postecoglou's posse are to spring a surprise.
"It definitely is the toughest test up against the best in the world but that's something you want," Leckie declared.
"You always want to play the best in the world. At the end of the day if you want to win the World Cup you have to beat the best.
"I'm not saying that's going to happen but we're out there to give it our all each game.
"It's not like a 34-game season, its three games and anything can happen.
"As long as we go over there with confidence and belief that we can play and do what we want to do then we're in with a good shot."
At 23, the former Adelaide United flyer is the perfect example of the exciting future Ange Postecoglou is planning for the future of the national team.
But despite having just a handful of caps his name and his tender years, 'future Socceroos star' is not a tag that sits well with Leckie.
Not that he doesn't believe he can play a significant role for the national team for years to come, it's just that he sees himself as a leader right now.
"I might be young but I don't want to be just happy with saying I'm in the national team.
"I'm at the age where I really want to be a senior member of the national team doing something on the pitch for in the national team.
"Scoring, creating, trying to make some history with the national team.
"We might have a lot of young guys here but there's no better time to stand up and take some responsibility than now."
Leckie's forthright thinking comes following an impressive season with FSV Frankfurt in Germany, where he scored 10 goals in 31 appearances for the club.
It's given him belief he can perform on the world stage at the tournament and that he really belongs now as a footballer.
"I've definitely got a lot of confidence at the moment and hopefully I'm a part of the team at the World Cup and I can take it on the pitch as well.
"Confidence is almost 70 percent of how good you play.
"If you have no confidence the things that you want to do, they don't work.
"I've definitely had a lot of confidence this season to run at my defenders, get into dangerous positions and I think that's one of the main things behind my form."
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