Upon his return form international duty with the Socceroos, we sat down with our right full-back, Tarek Elrich, to discuss his participation in the most recent World Cup Qualifiers and looked ahead to the Westfield FFA Cup Quarter-Final against Melbourne Victory.
Since joining Adelaide United, Tarek Elrich’s career has flourished considerably, so much so that he is now considered the Hyundai A-League’s best right full-back just 24 months after he was contemplating retirement from football.
Through his rapid ascendancy, Elrich has progressed so significantly that he is pounding on the door of the Socceroos squad, challenging as a potential mainstay for their upcoming World Cup Qualifiers.
Most recently, Elrich was part of the Socceroos’ 23-man squad that faced Bangladesh in Perth and also travelled to Tajikistan for two important World Cup Qualifiers.
And despite only featuring in Australia’s west, Elrich made clear that simply being involved in the training camp, which lasted two-weeks, benefited him substantially leading into the upcoming Hyundai A-League season, but also as a player in general.
“The Socceroos camp was really good and it’s always fantastic to be involved with the team for longer than a week,” Elrich said.
“When you go away with the national team, you find another level of professionalism and it’s a completely different experience and great to be in that sort of environment.
“Even though I am 28, I still consider myself young and I still feel young, but it’s good to finally be involved with the national team again and get hold of more caps.
“Playing for the Socceroos gives me plenty of confidence at club level as well as international level and just to be recognised as part of the 23-man national squad is a great honour.
“I try to bring that to my football here, at United, and use the little things I pick up in the training camps.
“Like I said, I still consider myself young, but I am one of the older boys here, at club level.
“Representing your country comes with a responsibility, so it’s about making sure that I help mentor the younger guys when I come back to Adelaide and continue to play the way I’ve been playing and adding to my achievements from the last couple of seasons.
“I want to get better and better as a player and so I’m making sure I do every little thing possible to become a better player and being with the Socceroos helps with that too.”
Against Bangladesh, Elrich was in his element, with the Socceroos’ No. 23 racking up an assist and also being heavily involved in the build up to another goal, whilst boasting a passing accuracy rate of 91.3 per cent and whipping in four successfully met balls into the box.
This is evidence of Elrich’s adaptability to a varying style compared to what he plays with the Reds at Coopers Stadium, as Socceroos’ Head Coach, Ange Postecoglou, looks for his full-backs to play higher up the pitch than what is expected by United Head Coach, Guillermo Amor.
Yet, Elrich considers himself lucky to be perfecting his craft under two incredibly well respected and seasoned professionals, praising the confidence his managers give him.
“Comparing my club football and the international football I’ve been playing with the Socceroos, they’re two different styles of play,” Elrich explained.
“Ange likes the wingers to play more inside allowing the full-backs to go up very high, which is very enjoyable for me.
“I like to get down the line and get involved in attack because I did start my career as a right winger, so it’s always good to be further up the pitch.
“Here, with Guillermo, it’s the same kind of thing. Obviously we have a few different rules in terms of the style that we play at the club.
“But in saying that it gives me plenty of confidence because I can play in the national team and come back to my club and be fitter and more ready for the start of the season.
“What’s important is that both Guillermo and Ange want us to play.
“Now we’re preparing for another World Cup and our style of play is awesome because every player believes in what Ange is trying to achieve with us.
“He, like Guillermo and our coaching staff here at United, wants us to play attractive football and he wants us to be successful by playing attractive football.
“I’m very lucky to be playing under both Guillermo and Ange and they’ve given me a lot of confidence to play and that confidence has helped me a lot in my progression as a footballer.”
Now back in Adelaide and settled into the Reds’ new training centre in Elizabeth at the City of Playford, Elrich’s focus is solely on his club football and, more specifically, United’s upcoming Westfield FFA Cup Quarter-Final with rivals, Melbourne Victory.
With the nature of the relationship the Reds share with Victory coupled with United being the reigning Westfield FFA Cup Winners, there is greater significance surround this knock-out fixture than the usual fiery loathing.
But Elrich says he and his teammates’ attention is purely on triumphing over last season’s Hyundai A-League Champions, boldly claiming despite the quality their side boasts, the Reds will go into the match full of confidence and without fear of their opposition.
“We’ll go out there and worry about ourselves and the style of play we know we can play and we’ll go out there and hopefully get a result and hopefully this time we can do it in 90 minutes and not have to worry about extra time like against Sydney FC,” Elrich said.
“The coaching staff have done a bit of video work on their strengths and weaknesses and have analysed their movements so we know what we want to target.
“Now it’s about making sure that when we get our chances, we take them.
“There’s no question the game against them (Melbourne Victory) is massive.
“It’s the quarter-finals of a cup competition, which is great in itself and when you’re a player it’s all about winning trophies at the end of it, so we’ll give it our all.
“Victory are definitely no easy-beats and they won the league last season, which wasn’t by fluke because of how much quality they have.
“But in saying that, we don’t fear them. We fear no one. We respect every team that we come up against, but we definitely don’t fear them.”