Socceroos star Miloš Degenek says must-win World Cup game against Tunisia isn’t real pressure: ‘Pressure is me as a baby fleeing a war’
Socceroos defender Miloš Degenek says pressure to win a World Cup game isn’t real pressure.
After being walloped 4-1 by France, another loss against Tunisia on Saturday will confirm Australia’s exit at the group stage.
For Degenek, that scenario isn’t pressure. Far from it.
‘You say ‘must-win’ game where you think it’s pressure … that’s not pressure,’ he told reporters.
‘Pressure is me as an 18-month-old baby fleeing a war.
‘Pressure is me as a six-year-old being in the middle of a war.
‘That’s pressure. Pressure is not a must-win football game because you can win or lose but I don’t think anyone is going to die.’
Degenek (pictured with wife Aleksandra) spent years in a refugee camp before his family came to Australia when he was seven
The defender (pictured marking French superstar Kylian Mbappe in the Socceroos 4-1 loss to France on Wednesday) remembers taking cover in an underground bunker as a boy
Degenek was born in Knin, Croatia.
When he was 18 months old, he and his Serbian family fled amid the Croatian war of independence to Belgrade. They rode on a tractor for nine days to get there.
The Degeneks lived as refugees in Arandelovac, about 70 kilometres south of Belgrade.
When Degenek was six, the Kosovo war arrived on his doorstep.
He remembers playing with friends, hearing sirens warning of looming attack, then spending up to 48 hours sheltering in an underground bunker, eating canned food.
Degenek and his family migrated to Australia as refugees when he was seven.
Degenek has urged his teammates to adopt a ‘lion mentality’ in their must-win match against Tunisia: ‘You either eat or get eaten. That is the simplest way to put it’
When he was 16, he moved to Germany to pursue a football career.
‘My first experience was being dropped in the middle of Germany, in Stuttgart, and having to take an hour and a half to training in the middle of a freezing winter,’ Degenek said.
‘It’s minus eight (degrees)… two pairs of trackies underneath one another, and four jumpers, because I didn’t have enough money to buy a winter jacket – until I got given one by my agent.
‘That’s where I learnt my first struggles of people thinking ‘oh, you go to Europe, you enjoy football, you’re going to be a professional and earn a lot of money’.
‘My first professional contract was a $1000 a month. I wasn’t earning big bucks.
‘And that’s where I learned the struggles and got that mentality and thought to myself: I am training with another 20 guys but I want to be that one to go on to make it.’
The 28-year-old got into professional football the hard way, struggling to make ends meet as a 16-year-old in Germany
Degenek calls it the lion mentality.
‘You either eat or you get eaten,’ he said.
‘That is the simplest way to put it.’
Degenek said the Socceroos would need the lion mentality to prevail against Tunisia, who he watched with admiration during their drawn opener against Denmark.
‘I haven’t seen a team at a World Cup yet with this much heart and passion and desire and love for their country,’ he said of Tunisia.
‘They have got phenomenal desire … the guys love each other and they have this fire in their eyes and they’re very strong in the way they go about things.’
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