Teenager Chris Ikonomidis hopes earning a dream Socceroos debut can convince his Italian club Lazio he’s ready for the big time.
The 19-year-old winger’s late cameo off the bench in Australia’s 0-0 draw with Macedonia in Skopje made him the first player in more than 30 years to debut for Australia before playing a senior club game.
Ikonomidis was a surprise inclusion in Ange Postecoglou’s squad, with the coach rewarding him for his stellar form with the Lazio reserves, where he is top scorer this season with 15 goals.
The Sydney-born attacker has been closing in on a first-team appearance in Italy, having been named on the bench three times.
And he feels the leap of faith shown by Postecoglou – and the lift gained from his international experience – can help him crack the Serie A this season.
“Somebody has to make the first move to give me my debut and Australia have done that,” Ikonomidis said.
“It has helped me a lot and I am really grateful for that because it’s really assured my club.
“If they weren’t 100 per cent sure, now they are definitely 100 per cent sure of my talent and hopefully they can bring me through soon.
“I think I am very close. The manager (Stefano Pioli) seems to believe a lot in me. We have 10 more really important games in the Serie A and hopefully I can get some minutes there, or even in the Coppa Italia.”
Ikonomidis has long dreamed of playing for Australia, rejecting several approaches from Greece – for whom he is also eligible.
Getting a few touches in a scoreless draw in front of just a few thousand Macedonian fans was not exactly what he had pictured, but it did nothing to diminish his pride and excitement.
“It’s incredible. I will always keep this with me,” Ikonomidis said.
“Even if it wasn’t a bicycle kick goal in the last minute, it was still special for me, my family and all my friends back home.
“I have a taste of international football now and it’s spurred me on to go back to my club, push even harder than before and prove to the boss and all the boys that I am worthy to be one of them and to remain in the squad for years to come, hopefully.”
Postecoglou spoke highly of the teen after the match.
“He’s looked pretty confident all week and he didn’t look out of place out there,” Postecoglou said.
“That’s great for us because it gives us another option up front.”