A New Zealand call-up for Kostas Barbarouses will add to pressure on Melbourne Victory’s challenging two months ahead.
Kosta Barbarouses has thrown a spanner in the works of Melbourne Victory’s nightmare A-League finals run-in by accepting a New Zealand call up next month.
Barbarouses was selected by New Zealand for a friendly in Japan on March 3, adding to Victory’s demanding run-in to the A-League finals and Asian Champions League (ACL) campaign.
He admitted being torn by the decision but demonstrated his allegiances.
“Because it’s a FIFA window you can’t (miss out). Obviously I’d love to stay and help the boys as much as I can. I’m big on helping the team but these things just happen,” he said.
He admitted coach Kevin Muscat had quietly asked him about the match but he was determined to play.
“He has (asked) – but you can’t really do much about it,” he said.
“If I could make everyone happy I would but you just can’t sometimes.”
The friendly honours a commitment given by Japan which was scheduled to play the All Whites before the tragic Tohuku earthquake in March 2011, which caused 15,000 deaths and triggered the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
With five Wellington Phoenix players also called up, Football Federation Australia has scheduled a ten-day gap between the Phoenix’s trip to Adelaide and home match against Perth Glory to compensate.
Barbarouses’ importance to Victory has been underlined by his naming in the ACL squad – at Brazilian Gui Finkler’s expense.
ACL rules dictate only three international players can play for each team, with Muscat opting for marquee Pablo Contreras, left-back Adama Traore and Barbarouses.
“It would have been hard on whoever missed out. It’s a bit unfortunate on Gui because he’s looking really good,” Barbarouses said.
Muscat and his A-League contemporaries will be hoping Ange Postecoglou looks abroad with his Socceroos squad, who will play Ecuador in London on the same day.
Despite wins over the top three teams in the league, Victory are no certainty to qualify for the finals, perched just four points above seventh-placed Wellington in fourth.
Barbarouses’ trip to Japan is sandwiched between AAMI Park meetings against the red-hot Melbourne Heart and fellow finals aspirants Central Coast Mariners, adding a 16,000 kilometre return trip to an estimated 62,000 kilometres of travel planned for Victory over the next two months.
In addition to ACL trips to China, Japan and Korea, the A-League draw has thrown up away matches against Wellington, Perth, Brisbane and Newcastle for an intimidating run-in to the A-League finals.
Barbarouses said the schedule meant Muscat would be calling on all corners of his squad over for the next 14 matches – and possible finals.