Sasa: Aussies earn respect

Few players are better placed to talk about Australia's true standing within Asia than former Adelaide United and now Korean based defender Sasa Ognenovski.

Few players are better placed to talk about Australia's true standing within Asia than former Adelaide United and now Korean based defender Sasa Ognenovski.

And Ognenovski, who made a triumphant return to Australia soil when he scored the opening goal for his K-League team Seongnam Ilhwa during its 2-0 win over Melbourne Victory in the AFC Champions' League on Tuesday night, says there is much for Australia to be proud of.

Having just qualified for the World Cup through the Asian confederation for the first time, Ognenovski says there is already a huge amount of respect for this country's football achievements from traditional Asian powerhouses such as Japan and South Korea.

And the same goes for Australia's domestic competition - the Hyundai A-League - even though the competition is in just its fifth season.

"In Asia they really rate Australia and even the A-League highly," Ognenovski said.

"They have developed a lot of respect for it (the A-League in a short space of time)."

While the record of Hyundai A-League teams in the AFC Champions' League has been less than stellar to date - with the exception of Adelaide's run to the final in 2008 where they were eventually thrashed by Japan's Gamba Osaka - Ognenovski believes Australia's top teams are capable of going all the way in Asia.

"It's not impossible," Ognenovski, a member of that Adelaide team of two years ago, said of Australian teams winning the AFC Champions' League.

"With Adelaide we made the final and beat some really good teams on the way there."

"But you have just got to be on top of your game every game and that is it - no mistakes."

"We got hammered in the final (with Adelaide) because of five mistakes we made and they (Gamba Osaka) pretty much scored five goals, it was that simple."

"It's a faster tempo (in the AFC Champions League compared to the Hyundai A-League) but in saying that, the Aussie teams can win games in the Asian Champions League."

Ognenovski, who left Adelaide to join the K-League at the end of last season, is relishing his time in South Korea but did admit to thoroughly enjoying putting one over Melbourne Victory on Tuesday night. "It was good to get a goal against the Victory and good to beat them because I think I had only beaten them once or twice (during my Adelaide career)," the 30-year-old said.

"Even though I played in Brisbane and Adelaide, I always had a rivalry with Melbourne Victory."

And as for the difference between the K-League and the Hyundai A-League, Ognenovski said the K-League was much more physical than it's given credit for just as the Australian competition is far more skilful than it is often believed.

"All the foreign players (in the K-League) are pretty much the strikers, so you are playing against quality opposition week in, week out and you have to mark some very, very talented strikers," the big defender said.

"And while you don't get to watch a lot of K-League and J-League over here, there are some tough tackles that fly in so it's not as nice and pretty as everyone thinks."