Australia defender Milos Degenek didn’t get pleasure from his World Cup debut, which maybe should not be all that stunning on condition that it got here in a 4-1 loss to defending champions France on Tuesday night. Certainly, regardless of a vivid begin that noticed the Socceroos take a 1-0 lead, the ultimate heavy margin and quick turnaround to the following recreation meant there wasn’t a lot to savour.
The 28-year-old, nevertheless, most likely would not have felt too otherwise had the Socceroos been capable of maintain on to their unlikely one-goal lead, on condition that he says he does not pause to get pleasure from any of the video games that he is performed of their instant aftermath, regardless of the sense of event. There’s the instant pleasure of victory, after all, however as soon as that adrenaline wears off it takes a little bit of time for the feelings to return.
Degenek did not savour, as an example, beating Liverpool 2-0 in a packed-out Champions League fixture on the Rajko Mitic Stadium when he was with Crimson Star Belgrade again in 2018. As an alternative, as the remainder of the aspect hit the city to mark their momentous win, he stayed house to re-watch the fixture together with his brother.
“I didn’t enjoy that game,” Degenek mentioned. “After it, I wasn’t happy.”
It was solely when Liverpool went on to win the whole match that Degenek started to permit himself to understand the magnitude of the accomplishment of he and his teammates.
All of it sounds only a bit Spartan; a denial of the sense of accomplishment, contentment, and gratitude that may include durations of introspection and reflection.
However for Degenek, who’s hoping to begin for his nation of their high-stakes fixture with Tunisia on Saturday, this self-imposed anhedonia goes a great distance in direction of serving to him preserve what he calls his “lion mentality.”
“The lion mentality is you either eat or you get eaten,” he defined. “That’s the simplest way to put it … when we had a meeting with the boys. I said: ‘There’s bread on the table. Either we eat tonight — my kids, my wife, and my family — or they eat, and my kids and wife go to sleep hungry.’
“I do not need that to occur and I take advantage of that time period — when that bread is on the desk — I need to take it, I need to preserve my spouse and my youngsters completely happy.”
Born in Knin, the capital of an unrecognized Serbian proto-state in Croatia, Degenek’s family fled to Belgrade when he was still a baby during the conflict in the region, before then seeking and gaining asylum in Australia when he was six years old.
Settling in Western Sydney, he subsequently earned a place in the prestigious Westfields Sports High and Australian Institute of Sport programs as a teen, his talents earned him a move to Europe and German side VfB Stuttgart, the place he performed alongside Germany worldwide Joshua Kimmich.
Stints across Europe — multiple with Red Star — East Asia, the Middle East and, presently, in the United States with Main League Soccer‘s Columbus Crew followed, as did 39 appearances for Australia’s senior side after previously representing Serbia’s youth.
Indeed, it’s been a long and winding road for Degenek, but he says that it was during those early days in Germany, when his future outlook was far less promising than what it would eventually become, where his mentality was forged.
“I used to be a 16-year-old after I went to Germany and my first expertise was being dropped in the midst of Stuttgart and taking an hour and a half to get to coaching in the midst of the freezing winter,” he said.
“It is -8 levels and I’ve obtained on two pairs of tracksuits and 4 jumpers as a result of I did not have cash to purchase a winter jacket till I obtained given one by my agent.
“People thinking you’re going to Europe to enjoy football, you’re going to be a professional and you’re going to earn a lot of money. My first professional contract was $1000 a month. I wasn’t earning big bucks.
“That is the place I discovered the struggles and obtained that mentality the place I assumed to myself ‘I am coaching with one other 20 guys however I need to be that one which goes on to make it.’
“I can say fortunately enough I am one the ones that made it.”
Assembly Tunisia within the opening kickoff of Saturday’s motion in Qatar, the stakes related to the fixture might be very clear to each Socceroo that takes the sphere on the Al Janoub Stadium.
Due to their heavy defeat in opposition to France, Graham Arnold’s aspect must take not less than a degree from the competition to carry out any hopes of advancing to the spherical of 16 for simply the second time of their nation’s historical past.
Although a draw would preserve them alive, on condition that Tunisia must face France of their remaining group stage recreation, a win might very nicely put Australia within the field seat to progress heading into the ultimate matchday.
The stakes, it will seemingly seem, are fairly excessive. No less than they might be if one did not have the lived expertise and hard-won perspective of Degenek.
“You say must-win game, you think it’s pressure. I said to the boys the other day, that’s not pressure,” he mentioned. “Pressure is me as an 18-month-old baby fleeing a war. Pressure is me as a six-year-old being in the middle of a war.
“Strain is not a must-win soccer recreation. As a result of you may win or lose however I do not assume anybody goes to die. That is not stress.
“This is just the joy of wanting to get better and wanting to have something to say to your grandkids and fans back home when you can say you won a game at a World Cup, you got out of the group.”