The Socceroos kick off their road to the 2022 World Cup against Kuwait next month with the coach of the Middle Eastern nation, Romeo Jozak, looking to unearth the next Luka Modric during the qualifiers.
The Croatian was largely responsible for developing the bulk of Croatia’s 2018 World Cup finalists, including a 14-year-old Modric as well as the likes of Vedran Corluka and Mario Mandzukic.
“Luka was special in terms of talent but also had the work ethic too,” Jozak told The World Game.
“You can never be sure when a player will make it and he was very skinny but he never gave up. It was special to see.”
Also special was watching Modric shine in Russia as Croatia reached the decider with the the Real Madrid star going on to win the 2018 Ballon D’Or.
“We still keep in touch. It is great to see how he has succeeded and how far he has come.”
The 46-year-old coach was on the two-man shortlist to become the Football Federation Australia technical director in 2014 along with Eric Abrams, who went on to get the gig.
Had things worked out differently Jozak, who has an eye for talent and a track record in helping develop it, may well have been working his magic trying to find Australia's next Modric.
Instead he'll be doing all he can to produce a Kuwaiti version of the superstar midfielder as he tries to book a place at the Qatar World Cup.
“There are some good players here, players who can go and play on big stages, but it is going to take time," he said.
"We will have a chance to see what they can do in qualification for the 2022 World Cup."
The Middle Easterners present Australia’s first opponents in Group B of the second round of qualification as the Socceroos look to get off to a winning start.
The 2015 Asian champions will be favourites to take the three points especially after defeating Kuwait 4-0 in a friendly last December but it will not be as easy according to Rojak who took the job last July.
“That 4-0 loss was not realistic when you look at the game. We had a few gaps in the game when we were punished. People see a 4-0 result and think that we were driven over but it wasn’t like that,” he insisted.
“We play Australia in September and by then, the game will be almost a year ago. That team and the Kuwait team now are two different teams. We have improved and I am happy with what we have done.”
Kuwait have been without competitive football since 2015 when they were hit by a two-year international suspension by FIFA.
On Sunday that ended as they kicked off the West Asian Football Federation Championships in Iraq with a 2-1 win in their opener against Saudi Arabia.
“We have had friendlies but they are friendlies and there is no extra pressure with no consequences so it is a disadvantage and this is why we are looking forward to the championships when there will be more intensity. We will do as much as we can.”
It follows a July training camp in England and games against lower league teams.
“It went well in England. We had a good 20 day training camp. had some friendlies and there was a good team effort. We talked with players about the World Cup draw and they are growing in self-confidence and this is something serious.”
As well as the Socceroos, Kuwait will take on Jordan, Taiwan and Nepal in Group B, with the top team going through to the next round, along with four of the eight best runners-up, but the big game comes first.
“We are looking forward to playing Australia. They must come to us for their first game and if they want to take something from us then they are going to have to work hard.”