CENTRE midfielder Josh Brillante has earned five Socceroos caps to date; three have seen him play at right back.
After bursting onto the scene as a 20-year-old with a debut at the East Asian Cup in 2013 Brillante was meant to become a national team mainstay, but five years down the track, it has taken a move back to the A-League to reignite a career stalled by an ill-fated stint in Italy.
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The Sydney FC star has finally earned a recall under Bert van Marwijk following a rich vein of A-League form, ending four years in the international wilderness – with his most recent outing in the green and gold coming against Qatar in October 2014.
Making the 26-man squad for the clashes with Norway and Colombia was a start, but the 24-year-old faces an uphill battle to earn a ticket to Russia – with eight players jostling for a position in the heart of the Aussie midfield at the World Cup.
But Brillante possesses a quality which could help set him apart from the rest in the hunt for a spot.
The midfielder’s versatility which sees him capably deputise at right back, is equalled only by Mark Milligan, and could add some value to his inclusion in the squad, with spots at a premium on a 23-man playing roster.
In 2014, the then Newcastle Jet asserted that he felt at home on the right hand side of a back four, a position he has also been deployed at for the Socceroos in the past.
“When I first came to the club I played a lot of right back, so I’m pretty familiar with the position and I’m just happy at the moment to be playing games, that’s the main thing for me,” Brillante said.
“Midfield to right-back is a completely different thing, but you’ve got to know what to do in your role because you have different responsibilities defensively.”
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Brillante began his career at the Novocastrian club, and took out the FFA Male Under-20 Footballer of the Year award in 2013 – a sign of burgeoning potential which some would argue still remains unrealised.
After narrowly missing out on Ange Postecoglou’s 2014 World Cup squad, cut at the final hurdle, the coach spoke openly about his omission – suggesting he may have even made a mistake in leaving the player out.
“Josh was extremely unlucky to miss the World Cup squad. That was probably the toughest decision I had to make. Probably in retrospect I might have even erred in not taking him,” Postecoglou told FFA TV.
But after a dream move to the Serie A with Fiorentina it appeared it wouldn’t be long until he had his chance to pull on the green and gold on the biggest stage.
The Bleacher Report published an article titled “Why new Fiorentina signing Brillante could be the next great Socceroos player,” while the Courier Mail’s Marco Monteverde penned “My Brillante career: Making of a champ,” as the Aussie football world prepped themselves for the meteoric rise of its next star.
But in reality, Brillante’s European dream quickly turned to nightmare with three Serie A appearances across two seasons – one with Fiorentina and one on loan at Empoli, followed by a stint in the Serie B before an eventual return home.
Brillante arrived at Sydney FC in 2016-17 with a once promising career back at square one. But to his credit, the midfielder has flourished in his second stint in the A-League, becoming one of the Sky Blues’ most important players under Graham Arnold and playing an integral role in the side’s title success last season.
He’s earned an international recall with unrelenting form and statistical dominance.
“There are not many players in the A-League who can do what he does: he tracks, he presses, he’s very good on the ball and he sees passes,” Van Marwijk’s Socceroos successor in waiting Arnold said of Brillante in November.
He’s back in the fold after a long exile, but if the midfielder and makeshift right back is to head to Russia, he’ll need to impress the new coaching setup as much as possible.
And that journey starts on Saturday morning as the Socceroos take on Norway in Oslo.