Adelaide United goalkeeper Joe Gauci could start for the Socceroos in the Asian Cup on Saturday but at 23, he won’t be fazed.
Even in the flicker of a Zoom call, Joe Gauci is completely still and – on the surface at least – completely calm.
At 23 the Adelaide goalkeeper could be about to start for Australia at the AFC Asian Cup, pending a late decision on the strength of no.1 Mat Ryan’s fractured cheekbone.
Taking on India in Saturday’s opening game of the Socceroos’ campaign would represent just his third cap – but the more the prospect is hyped up, the more Gauci seems ready to take an effortless step up.
Nerves? They’re there to be enjoyed, he explains. A way to make yourself play even better. Big matches? Also there to be excited by. After 71 games in the A-League Men, Gauci isn’t about to be fazed by Australia’s biggest international tournament after the FIFA Men’s World Cup.
It was the Adelaide custodian chosen to face Bahrain in Saturday’s warm-up friendly, ahead of Western Sydney’s Lawrence Thomas, and more than one sharp save on the way to a clean sheet vindicated the sense that Gauci is seen as the long-term successor to Ryan.
In a Socceroos environment where players are encouraged to embrace the expectations around the team, Gauci is absolutely on the same page.
“For me, nerves are just energy,” he explains. “I think it all comes down to your perspective and the way that you feel about those nerves. Are you scared by them or do you sort of dive in head first and just enjoy the moment?
“For all games at a club and country IeveI, I feel those nerves and I just see that as excitement. I know if I have that sensation that I’m ready for the game, that my body is ready to go and, and mentally, I’m ready to perform. “At the end of the day, (nerves show) the performance means something to me and the game means something to me.
“I have a real sense of pride in the way I go about things. So having that nervousness going into the game is exciting for me.
“I like to just try and tell myself that’s just energy, an extra bit of speed, an extra bit of power, a slightly quicker reaction time because I’m on edge and ready to go.”
Gauci admits he can learn a lot from Ryan, whose career path was remarkably similar in getting an early break in the A-Leagues.
“Maty is someone who’s a superb professional and really looks after himself on and off the field,” he said.
“So over the course of the past few camps I’ve been able to see him up close and ask some questions about his routines and the way he goes about things, it’s really motivating for me.
“He’s someone that’s been playing at the highest level for a number of years now. I’m not even sure when he broke into the national team set up but he’s been Australia’s number one for most of my junior career and now into my senior career.
“So he’s someone who has a wealth of knowledge and experience.”
Whether or not he gets to showcase his talents in Qatar, Gauci looks certain to be the latest of Adelaide’s burgeoning talent pipeline to attract overseas interest in the near future – for now though, his only focus is on self-improvement.
“I’m very pleased with where I am and my journey has been a fantastic one,” he said. “I’m so grateful for the opportunities I have, both with Adelaide and now here with the national team.
“But at the same time I’m someone who’s very ambitious, I have high standards for myself. I’m sometimes a little unrealistic but I know the work that needs to be done.
“I haven’t played a perfect game once this year, so I’m constantly critiquing my performances and looking at ways in which I can get better as a player and comparing myself to the best goalkeepers in the world at the highest level.
“I know that there’s still a lot of development for me and that’s my main focus – enjoying the journey, enjoying the process and the path that I’m on. “When I get the opportunity to step out on to the field of play, I know that I’ve done the work and I can relax and enjoy it.”
Australia v India
Asian Cup: Saturday, 13 January 2024
Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
Kick-off: 2:30pm local (10:30pm AEDT)
Broadcast: Network 10 and Paramount+