For Kosta Barbarouses, his Hyundai A-League career really took off when Ange Postecoglou signed him to Brisbane Roar. Now, he’s hoping to face his mentor in Russia next year.
A strong season with Wellington Phoenix and a favourable draw for the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia will conspire to bring the two together on the big stage next June.
Barbarouses in an All White shirt and Postecoglou in the Caltex Socceroos dugout, bringing back memories of their championship-winning season at Brisbane Roar in 2011.
The Confederations Cup draw is on November 26 in Russia with the host nation, Portugal, Chile, Germany, Mexico plus the winner of January’s CAF joining the Aussies and Kiwis from OFC.
“It’s a very exciting year. Because we have the Confederations Cup, the national team [New Zealand] has some good games coming up.
“There’s a good buzz around the city [Wellington] with a decent amount of expectation on us which is good, you need a bit of pressure… they expect us to win most games.
“And with the Confederations Cup at the end of it all will be amazing. Playing the Socceroos would be a great marker to see where we’re at because they are a good side.
“They are no weaker than any of the teams that are going to be there. It’s very exciting and I really do hope we play against them [Australia]," Barbarouses told www.a-league.com.au
With preparation games, it means Phoenix may have to again be without a core of their squad – the price they pay for being the nation’s only professional football club in the Hyundai A-League.
Then there’s Roy Krishna, the livewire Fijian international who may also miss games with his national team.
“It is tough, I feel for Ernie. I hate putting the team out with me being away. At the same time I love playing for my country. Especially with the exciting year we have ahead with the Confederations Cup coming up. It’s a blessing and a curse," said Barbarouses, 26, who played in Russia after leaving Roar after their Championship win five years ago.
Before that though is the small matter of helping push Phoenix up the ladder and into a spot to challenge for a Finals Series berth.
Barbarouses and Finkler, new signings in the off-season and a partnership forged in success at Melbourne Victory, will be absolutely vital.
“The partnerships in the team has to be right,” says the 26-year-old Barbarouses.
“[Coach] Ernie [Merrick] is great in that he gives the front four or five a lot of freedom to create our own solutions to things.
“Our build-ups always from the back, looking for passes in between the lines. Those partnerships are going to be key.
“Obviously I have had one with Gui for a few years now, that’s already there.
“It’s all there for it to happen; it’s just going to take hard work. People underestimate the physicality and the work-rate of the league.
“You have to be very fit to compete in this league. We’re getting there, we just have to perform to what our team is on paper because we do have a good team on paper but it doesn’t mean anything, we have to perform.”
Two games in, two losses, is not a promising start.
But the opening round 1-0 loss to City was without a host of their Kiwi internationals while their second game was way over in Perth, with many of their All Whites fatiguing in the second half.
“You need to have 18 or 20 players that are willing to contribute and to work hard and be consistent.
“Consistency in the league goes a long way as it’s always very tight. If you string together a few results, like Adelaide did last year, they were last after [nine games] and you saw what happened with them.
“That’s what it’s going to take this year," said Barbarouses.
Phoenix meet Sydney FC this Sunday at Westpac Stadium, KO 7pm local (5pm AEDT).