2018 and the early parts of 2019 have had their challenges for Brandon Borrello and Awer Mabil; different they may be, but both challenging in their own right.
Borrello has endured injury tournament since the tail-end of the 2017-18 season having ruptured his ACL while playing for Kaiserslautern in the 2.Bundesliga.
The 23-year-old has gradually worked his way to fitness and into the fold at new club Freiburg – who signed him even while injured – spending much of his time in the second half of the campaign with their reserves.
He made nine appearances for Freiburg II, registering four assists, and was called onto the bench for the club’s Bundesliga matchup against RB Leipzig in late April.
His road back in 2019 culminated in a maiden Socceroos callup; the winger is part of Graham Arnold’s 24-man squad to face South Korea in a friendly on Friday.
Borrello reflected on the road back, highlighting his desire to impress his new employers.
“The ACL, it’s a challenging injury. Unfortunately it’s become a lot more common in football now but the rehab for me was great,” Borrello said in Busan.
“I stuck it out over in Germany, spent a lot of time in a rehab facility just solely focused on the knee and I think that’s what kept me on track and kept me focused.
“I had no desire to come back to Australia and do the rehab there. I signed with a new club, I want to show them … I want to stay in Germany and keep plugging away.
“Although I sat on the bench once – I played a few games for the under-23s – it wasn’t the best personally. But to stay fit and get to where I am now, I think it’s a big achievement and I couldn’t be happier.”
Mabil meanwhile faced personal hardship of a much greater scale, losing sister Bor in a car crash in their home town of Adelaide.
The accident happened just after the Socceroos’ Asian Cup campaign in the UAE concluded in a quarter-final defeat.
After taking some time off, Mabil returned to Denmark with club side Midtjylland where they challenged for the league title and won the nation’s cup competition.
“Of course a lot of things happened during that season, a few months ago, so that was a little bit difficult,” Mabil reflected.
“But we managed to get back on track and finish the season with winning the cup and we were in the league for a long time with Copenhagen.
“We lost it in the end because they were more consistent than us. Next year we would like to take it back.”
Minutes against the Taeguk Warriors would bring with them Mabil’s 10th senior national cap.
Goalkeeper Mitch Langerak withdrew from the squad on Monday afternoon, meaning both Andrew Redmayne and Lawrence Thomas will almost certainly earn their Socceroos debuts.