A one-time A-League reject who sought refuge in Malaysia’s top flight, Australia’s Andrew Nabbout is poised to cap a remarkable career revival with a World Cup debut against France on Saturday.
And if the rookie Australia striker get the nod from coach Bert van Marwijk, he has pledged to make it count.
“If I do get the honour to lead the line, you know what you’re going to get out of me,” Nabbout said on Wednesday at the Socceroos training camp in Kazan.
“I’m going to work hard up there and do exactly what I’ve been doing the last few games.”
The 25-year-old front man from Japan’s Urawa Diamonds scored his maiden goal for Australia in a recent 4-0 friendly win over the Czech Republic.
He now has a golden chance to stake his claim for the sole striker’s spot in van Marwijk’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation during this World Cup campaign.
Talisman Tim Cahill, 38, is set to start on the bench alongside Lucerne striker Tomi Juric, who has struggled with injury niggles in recent weeks.
A training-ground spat with teammate and defender Trent Sainsbury on Tuesday gave a glimpse into Nabbout’s terrier-like qualities.
Although he acknowledges the superior “calibre” of France’s big name players, Nabbout is confident in his style of play.
He believes counter-attacking opportunities are likely to pop up during the opening game, giving the Socceroos the chance to punish ‘Les Bleus’.
“We’re aware of the big name players, the calibre they have,” he said of Didier Deschamps’ side.
“We’ve got a structure and a strategy that we’re going to go into the game with, and if we execute that to the best of our ability then we can cause them some problems.”
‘We’re ready for France’
With only four caps to his name, Nabbout has little to shout about.
But the trials endured earlier in his career give him the bearing of a far more experienced player.
It has been a long, arduous trip for Nabbout, who rejected overtures from Lebanon early in his career as he was determined to wear Australia’s green and gold.
He moved to Malaysian side Negeri Sembilan in December 2015 after being released by Melbourne Victory, shrugging off the setback to become the team’s top scorer.
He returned to the A-League for two seasons with Newcastle Jets, capping his departure with the award for the league’s best goal of the year.
A move to Urawa Red Diamonds earlier this year was a step up that brought Nabbout to van Marwijk’ attention and he debuted for Australia in a 4-1 loss to Norway last March.
On the eve of his maiden World Cup, Nabbout could not be more confident.
“It gives me huge boost, obviously, looking back at where I came from to where I am now,” he said.
“It gives me a lot of confidence coming into this game.
“We’ve got a job to do against France. They’re a big side, but we’re ready for that test.
“It’s a World Cup experience, after all. I’m going to go out with a smile on my face, taking into account exactly where I’ve been and try to put in a solid shift.”