World Cup reunion could decide A-League grand final
FOUR years ago they were Ange Postecoglou's back four in the World Cup - now a quartet of defensive talent has a different kind of glory to chase.
Alex Wilkinson, Matthew Spiranovic, Ivan Franjic and Jason Davidson were the defensive line Postecoglou selected to face Chile when the Socceroos' campaign began in Brazil - and on Sunday the latter three will line up for Perth against Wilkinson's Sydney FC in the A-League grand final.
It's a reunion in name alone, with Wilkinson determined to spoil Perth's first home grand final of the A-League era.
The Sky Blues vice-captain believes the defence which proves to have the upper hand on the day could be the defining element of the final.
"Rightly, everyone's talking about the attacking talent on show from both teams," he said. "There's a lot of star attacking players who can score goals and set them up.
"That's what people love to see and come to watch. But from my point of view, defence is equally important, and at the weekend whoever's defence is the strongest will go a long way to winning the game."
At 31, Franjic is playing in his fourth grand final - part of a Glory defence that conceded the fewest goals, and the fullback was quick to underline the role of Tony Popovic.
"Popa's an unbelievable coach, he gets the best out of players," he said. "He looks at the finest details, the one percenters that can always improve our game.
"We all feel like we're still improving this year and getting better and better under him."
Sydney though should be buoyed by the 6-1 demolition of Melbourne victory in last weekend's semi-final, but Wilkinson put that result into a more normal finals context.
"In big games, tight results are more often the case," he said. "Results like beating Melbourne Victory are a rarity in finals football, they're usually pretty tight contests.
"A lot of the time, it's the team that keeps its structure the best and stays solid ends up shading it.
"Our team has a really strong structure we've built over several seasons, which is why we go there with confidence."