Trent Sainsbury almost got his wish for the ultimate Caltex Socceroos confidence-booster heading into this month’s FIFA World Cup finals in Russia.
Speaking alongside Bert van Marwijk in the media conference prior to facing the Czech Republic, the famously laid-back defender jokingly outlined his hope to win 5-0 in response to his coach’s suggestion that the result of the friendly mattered little.
The West Australian’s prediction fell one goal short as van Marwijk’s men eased to a well-earned 4-0 win at the NV Arena in Austria on Friday night (WST).
A double from Mathew Leckie, a first international goal for Andrew Nabbout and an own goal from Jakob Jugas inflicted the heaviest defeat suffered by the Czech Republic.
The 26-year-old nevertheless had an encouraging team performance and an international captaincy debut to show for the pre-FIFA World Cup warm-up, having worn the armband with Mile Jedinak rested.
“It’s a very proud moment for myself,” Sainsbury told Fox Sports of the honour. “A nice result to go with it.
“I said yesterday in the interview I wanted five. We got the four. One off.
“There are a few little things we’ve still got to tinker with and work with.
“A couple of times the rest defence we weren’t too happy with and personally, a few times coming out of the line, I probably shouldn’t have done.
“Overall it was a good performance [with] a clean sheet.”
Holding the world’s 45th-ranked nation was aided by impressive performances from full-backs Josh Risdon and Aziz Behich.
The main intrigue, however, was in the middle of the back four, where Sainsbury joined experienced utility Mark Milligan in a potential preview of van Marwijk’s preferred partnership for Russia.
“I actually don’t think I’ve played alongside him,” Sainsbury said.
“Usually he comes in when I’m injured and fills that spot.
“But he’s been around the Socceroos for many years and played alongside many players so it was easy to work alongside him.”
Josh Risdon of Australia is challenged by Jan Kopic of the Czech Republic. Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images
Van Marwijk said of his decision to give Sainsbury the captaincy: “He is the captain when Jedinak isn’t playing, but when Jedinak plays he is the captain.
“He is one of the best central defenders of Australia. He has the right personality, he coaches very well – you can hear that in the stadium – he coaches very well and he is a very good player.”
The Socceroos head coach was also impressed with another West Australian, right-back Risdon.
“I was very happy with the performance of Risdon … his total performance, I knew in ball possession he can play as a full-back but defending he must become much stronger and he didn’t play for four or five weeks and had an individual schedule and he worked very hard every day and he deserved to play there.
“I see him improve every day.”
The two other West Australians in the squad, striker Nikita Rukavytsya and keeper Brad Jones, did not see action on Friday and now all attention turns to Sunday when van Marwijk will announce his final 23-man squad to take to Russia.