Ice-cool Sainsbury eager to make up for lost time

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  • Australia defender Trent Sainsbury missed the 2014 World Cup with injury
  • A key figure for the Socceroos over the past three years
  • Sainsbury says Confederations Cup is ‘a massive tournament for Australia’

Three years ago, Trent Sainsbury’s dreams of playing at a FIFA World Cup™ were dashed by a cruel dose of misfortune. The Australian defender suffered a freak on-field knee injury after landing on a buried sprinkler while playing for PEC Zwolle in the Netherlands. Now the centre-back is seeking to make up for that lost opportunity with a star showing for the Socceroos at this month’s FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia.

Since the heartache of missing Brazil 2014, Sainsbury has made every post a winner while wearing the Green and Gold. So much so, that he has become one of the senior figures in the side at the age of 25.

And it was during the successful AFC Asian Cup campaign in January 2015 – the tournament where Australia booked their ticket to Russia – that Sainsbury’s promise became something more. Sainsbury started every match, with ice-cool defending and inherent athleticism earning the West Australian a slot in the team of the tournament.

Building for future glory
Sainsbury has an efficient, almost laid-back style to his game. Off the field, he is equally undemonstrative, and there is only a hint of disappointment when asked to reflect on Brazil 2014. The mentality, it seems, is very much positive and forward thinking. It is a view that mirrors the Socceroos’ approach under coach Ange Postecoglou.

“I was very happy for the boys that they could be there, but at the same time it was a little bittersweet because I was sitting on backside with my knee up and covered in ice,” Sainsbury told FIFA.com. “Of course you think that ‘it could be me out there’, but I still support all the boys no matter what.”

Australia face a potentially pivotal World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia at home on Thursday. Then, following a glamour home international against Brazil, Australia land in Russia for what they hope will be the first of two visits within the space for 12 months. There they will lock horns with world champions Germany, South American kings Chile and African representatives Cameroon.

“It is a massive tournament for Australia,” Sainsbury said of Russia 2017. “It shows where we are at when we play against these top teams. It gives us a taste of what the World Cup is going to be like.

“The World Cup is obviously very special in its own right, but the Confederations Cup is important being a lead-in to the World Cup and there is a trophy to be won.”

New-found confidence

Australia arrived at Brazil 2014 with a hugely inexperienced squad, with Postecoglou newly at the helm and armed with a fresh philosophy that was still being honed. Though they lost all three matches, Chile and the Netherlands were both pushed to the very limit. They will have a chance to redress that 3-1 defeat against Chile, when the pair meet later this month in Moscow.

Three years on, what can global football fans expect to see from Australia? “We have a really good core of players now,” says Sainsbury. “We have young players coming through and older heads in there steering the ship, so we have a good mix. Everyone is willing to give everything for the cause, and is on the same path. We need everyone with the same objective and we have that.”

Sainsbury has also grown on a personal level over those few years. He has spent the past six months on loan at Inter Milan from Chinese side Jiangsu Suning, though match time in Italy proved at a premium. On the international stage, however, he has rarely missed a beat.

“I have more of a leadership role now within the squad,” Sainsbury said. “We have a lot of younger faces. Being at the back you have a good view of the pitch. It is always nice to have more responsibility on your shoulders.”

 



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