World Cup One to Watch: Mathew Leckie – Australia

The experienced Aussie will be looking to repeat his impressive 2014 display when he lines up for the Socceroos in Russia.

REUTERS/Kaan Soyturk

Having grown up dreaming of becoming an Aussie Rules footballer, Mathew Leckie’s path to professional soccer started later than most. In fact, it wasn’t until he switched schools at 11 that he got involved in the sport that would later become his career.

Fortunately, he had a natural flair for the game so his late start was never a hindrance to his development. By the age of 16, he was playing for Victorian State League Division 1 side Bulleen Lions and it took just another two years to make the step up to A-League level, signing a two-year contract for Adelaide United in 2009.

By the age of 20, the Melbourne-born midfielder had caught the eye of European scouts and was on his way to Germany to sign for Borussia Monchengladbach. A loan spell at Frankfurt followed before he made the permanent switch to Bornheim  in 2013. This proved to be an important decision in his development as he strived to adapt to the increased demands of the elite European game.

He scored 12 goals in 33 starts during his first permanent season in the German second tier and was promptly signed by FC Ingolstadt in 2014. He played a key role in getting the club promoted to the Bundesliga and spent another two seasons with them before transferring to Hertha Berlin for €3m in 2017.

Past season

Mathew Leckie’s first week at Hertha Berlin was a memorable one. He scored a brace on his debut in a 2-0 win over Stuttgart just a few days after becoming a father for the first time.

He carried that positivity through the season, scoring his first European goal in a 3–2 defeat away to Athletic Bilbao in the Europa League in November. He finished the season with six goals from 26 appearances as his side finished tenth in the league.

While his performances tailed off in the second half of the season, he was still one of the club's top performers. 

If he plays well in Russia, he could be the subject of more transfer speculation come July.

International experience

Leckie has been a regular for the national team since 2012 and played 19 times during their epic World Cup qualification campaign including the crucial 3-1 play-off victory against Honduras. 

His performances at the 2014 World Cup saw his value rise. However, he had already agreed a deal with German second division side Ingolstadt where he remained for the next three seasons.

REUTERS/Alexey Nasyrov

He bagged two goals in Australia’s recent 4-0 friendly win over Czech Republic and also featured in their 2-1 win over Hungary in Budapest on Saturday night. 

He has made 53 appearances for the Socceroos and will be one of the first names on Bert van Marwijk’s team sheet.

Tactical Profile

Leckie can play as a winger, wing-back or attacking midfielder and will probably take up an advanced position on the right in a 4-2-3-1 formation during the World Cup. 

Bert van Marwijk has ditched the experimental approach of former coach Ange Postecoglou and implemented a more rigid system with disciplined full-backs and efficient midfielders who will look to move the ball forward as fast as possible. 

From there, Leckie and fellow winger Robbie Kruse will be expected to use their pace to trouble the opposition.

With France, Peru and Denmark in their group, Australia face a tough task making it to the knockout phase but they arrive in good shape and could spring a surprise.

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Neil Morris