Playing in a European grand final was only a dream when midfielder Ajdin Hrustic left Melbourne as a teenager to pursue his football career.
Hrustic was just 15 when he traveled halfway around the world, spending time at youth facilities in Nottingham Forest, Austria Vienna and Schalke before landing in Holland with Groningen, where he would do his senior debut in 2017.
Fast forward five years and Hrustic is not only a key member of the Socceroos team, but on the verge of becoming the first Australian male player to feature in a major European competition since Mark Schwarzer in 2010 when his German club Eintracht Frankfurt confronts Scottish power. Rangers at Sevilla on Wednesday (Thursday 05:00 AEST).
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Having already beaten Spanish giants Barcelona and English Premier League side West Ham on their way to the final, Hrustic still has to pinch himself to believe he happened.
“It’s something you can’t describe,” the 25-year-old told AAP.
“You have to live it to feel it a little.
“Sometimes I don’t believe in it, but that’s how it is, and I’m going to play a Europa League final, which is something huge.
“Something you dream of as a little kid and I’m proud to say I’ve managed to come this far, come this far with my career and hopefully there’s a lot more to come.”
Hrustic’s role at Eintracht has been mostly off the bench during their Europa League run as the Bundesliga mid-table side delighted their fans to reach a first European final in over 40 years.
Standing in their way is a Rangers side who have already knocked out two German clubs – Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig – on their way to the final.
Hrustic isn’t bothered by the record though, saying Eintracht head into the final with a nothing to lose mentality.
“We haven’t recorded any defeats so far in the Europa League and we’ve managed to meet some of the biggest teams in Europe, if not the world,” he said.
“We’re not going to underestimate Rangers, but we’re confident and we’ll go into the game with our chests up and our heads held high.
“The manager also announced himself that we may not be the best players individually, and they may not be the best staff individually, but as a team there is something special and that’s something that kind of sums up our club and our fans.”