Socceroos defensive lynchpin Trent Sainsbury is determined to put his 2014 FIFA World Cup selection nightmare behind him and fulfill a lifelong dream of representing Australia at football's showpiece event.
Sainsbury is expected to be one of the first picked in Bert van Marwijk’s final 23-man squad for Russia 2018, with the former Inter Milan player at the heart of Australia’s defence during Ange Postecoglou’s tenure, including the AFC Asian Cup victory in 2015.
However, it was a very different story four years ago for the 26-year-old.
The centre back, yet to play a match for Australia at the time, was on the cusp of an incredible Socceroos call-up for the World Cup in Brazil.
But he was ruled out in bizarre circumstances when he broke his kneecap after landing on a sprinkler while making his debut for PEC Zwolle in the Dutch top flight.
The injury took Sainsbury out of action for six months and hit the defender hard, both on and off the pitch, as he came to terms with the freak accident.
Sainsbury's game came on in leaps and bounds after he returned from injury and he established himself as a first-choice defender for Postecoglou.
History threatened to repeat itself with the Perth product experiencing a horror run of injury and instability during the past 12 months, leaving many to wonder if he would be available for the World Cup.
However, a solid run of form since making a loan move to Swiss side Grasshoppers in January has Sainsbury fit and firing.
While he is yet to officially lock down his spot in the final team, Sainsbury admitted he can’t help but picture what it will be like to fulfill his World Cup dream.
“I think it would be hard not to imagine what is ahead, everything that is at stake and the possibilities of what the games are like,” Sainsbury said.
“Every kid dreams of going to a World Cup and I’m still dreaming to this day.
“So until I’m there on the pitch I can keep dreaming.”
Injury prevented Sainsbury from being a full participant in van Marwijk’s first camp in March but the former A-League winner, with Central Coast Mariners, is confident that the new Socceroos boss can the most out of the side’s ‘untapped potential’.
“He (van Marwijk) knows what he wants and he is going to get that through the boys. He has a specific Idea which he is implementing now,” he said.
“He is teaching us slowly but quick enough to get us ready for what is coming up.
“We are training the hardest we possibly can at the moment.
With the tournament still three weeks away, Sainsbury admitted there was a calm mood around camp but knows it won’t stay that way for long.
“It is difficult to say at the moment cause it feels like any other camp, but I’m sure once the second week rolls around and then the week after that we will start feeling a bit different as the pressure builds ahead of the tournament,” he said.
“You’ll start to see the boys not trying harder but the desperation will start to come out cause everyone knows how much we all want to be there at the end.”