The experience of testing himself against Liverpool recently has only provided greater motivation for young defender Ryan McGowan to become a Qantas Socceroo regular.
McGowan, 23, was a key contributor for Scottish club Hearts when they faced the Merseyside giants in a two-legged Europa League qualification playoff in August.
After suffering a 1-0 defeat at home in the opening tie, Hearts led the return leg 1-0 before Luis Suarez intervened late on at Anfield to secure Liverpool’s passage through to the group stages of UEFA’s second-tier continental competition.
McGowan played 90 minutes in each match, crossing paths with no less than Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Suarez and company over two unforgettable fixtures.
McGowan has maintained his presence in the Hearts starting side in the Scottish Premier League since the club’s Europa League exit and despite a rough patch of results domestically, remains buoyed by his impressive start to the 2012/13 campaign.
“Although results haven’t gone our way as much as we’d like, we’ve been playing very well,” McGowan said.
“A few decisions here and there can make a massive change in the result, a few times we’ve missed a couple of penalties, which makes a big difference and a couple of red cards.
“Once the tide turns and we can get a couple of good results, then we’ll be right back up that table.
“It (playing Liverpool in the Europa League) was a great occasion for the club and myself with Liverpool being such a well known club.
“I thought we performed well in both the games and were probably unlucky not to take them to extra time at Anfield, but that’s something that will probably stay with me for a long time and it’s European football which is, something that I’ve dreamed of since I was a young boy.”
On the international stage, McGowan is a fresh face to the Qantas Socceroo set up, having made his debut against Scotland in Edinburgh in mid-August.
Since appearing off the bench in the second half at Easter Road Stadium, McGowan has become a permanent fixture in Holger Osieck’s Qantas Socceroos squads and is now hoping to press his claims for game time, starting with Tuesday’s FIFA World Cup qualifier against Iraq.
“Most of us (younger players) now are trying to sort of cement our place in the squad, if that makes sense, just trying to get in and get as much training sessions and minutes under our belt and at the same time, try and make sure that the senior players are kept on their toes,” McGowan said.
“Everyone is professional in the way they go about their training sessions, we’re preparing exactly the same as we did in the previous camps but we just know that we need to get the right result here.
“They’re (Iraq) always a difficult team to play against, they’ve got good technical players and they’ve got a real good team spirit, we know we’re going to have to be on top of our game and be playing well to get the right result.
“With the calibre of players that we have in our team, if we play to our potential, then, hopefully we’ll get the three points.”
The Qantas Socceroos resume their FIFA World Cup qualification campaign against Iraq at Doha’s Al Arabi Stadium at 5.15pm on Tuesday, 16 October (1.15am AEDT, Wednesday, 17 October).
The Qantas Socceroos return to Australia in 2013, for the FIFA World Cup qualifier against Oman at Sydney’s Stadium Australia at 7.30pm, Tuesday, 26 March, followed by Iraq, at 7.30pm on Tuesday, 18 June.
Tickets for both matches at Stadium Australia are on sale now through Ticketek or via phone, 132 849.