Socceroo great Zeljko Kalac believes Mitch Langerak has earned his chance at securing Australia’s starting goalkeeping spot when the national team play its next game in June.
Langerak has been in impressive form in the J1 League this season for Nagoya Grampus, notching 10 clean sheets and conceding just seven goals from 13 appearances. Meanwhile, Mat Ryan, Langerak’s main competitor for the goalkeeping spot, has endured a difficult campaign in the UK after leaving Brighton & Hove Albion in January to join Arsenal in search of regular football.
Ryan has only made three appearances since moving to the Gunners and played in just three first-team games since mid-January. Last year Langerak set a new competition record in Japan after recording his 17th clean sheet.
Kalac, a member of the ‘Golden Generation’ who earned 54 caps for the green and gold, believes the 32-year-old’s time at international level has come.
“We’ve been very lucky in the goalkeeping department, that’s for sure,” he told The World Game.
“It’s a real bastard of a position because you’ve got two or three fantastic keepers and only one can play. Maty’s had that opportunity, he’s been the one that’s played, and the others have been waiting for opportunities to get game-time, that’s just how it is.
“Sometimes it’s coaches’ preference but now Mitch is playing. We’ve all had a high opinion of Mitch for a long time but what do you do when the coach chooses Maty, that’s just the way it is.
“Now that Maty’s not playing and Mitch’s playing regularly, maybe now it’s Mitch’s time to get an opportunity.”
Queenslander Langerak has been based in Japan since a brief spell with Levante in 2018. The shot-stopper made his Socceroo debut in 2013 but has made just eight appearances for Australia, largely because he has been Ryan’s number two.
Kalac faced a similar situation during his 14 years with the Socceroos when he was competing with the likes of Mark Bosnich and Mark Schwarzer for a starting role.
The 48-year-old believes Langerak playing his club football away from England means has not received the same level of attention other Australians playing abroad, but national team coach Graham Arnold now has a selection quandary when the World Cup qualifiers resume next month.
“Mitch is doing really well in the J1 League,” Kalac said.
“I know from personal things from before, we are so Premier League-orientated in Australia. It’s all English football, English football, English football.
“Sometimes when you play outside of England you don’t get the credit that you actually deserve. Mitch is another one that’s probably not received the benefits of that because he spent a lot of time at a massive club like Dortmund, and a lot of people probably didn’t even realize he was there.
“Then he went to Stuttgart and played really well at Stuttgart and from there he went to Japan. So when you’re not in the English Premier League limelight in Australia you probably don’t get the limelight you deserve.
“It’s probably come up this opportunity because Maty’s not playing in the EPL… Mitch has always been a good goalkeeper, Federici has always been a good goalkeeper, just that Maty was playing and the EPL limelight was on him.
“But now it’s a big decision for Graham Arnold to make to be fair because as a coach sometimes you have the loyalty of someone who has done well, it’s hard to leave them out.”