Socceroos midfield mainstay Jackson Irvine is relishing the prospect of another battle with the “best player in the world”, Real Madrid star Jude Bellingham, when Australia meets England at Wembley on Saturday morning.
Bellingham is the toast of world football after a brilliant start to life at the Spanish giants, who he joined in the off-season from German club Borussia Dortmund.
The 20-year-old revelation has scored 10 goals and provided three assists in just 10 appearances for Real Madrid.
“It’s just been incredible to watch,” said Irvine, who during his time with Hull played against Bellingham when the Englishman was a 15-year-old Birmingham whiz-kid.
The pair again crossed paths in a German Cup match, with Irvine representing his current club, second-tier St Pauli, in a game against Dortmund.
“To see now a player of that age making that mark at that level … there’s nothing left to say.
“Everyone can see the result of what he’s got and what he’s brought, the way he carries himself – he’s arguably the best player in the world at the moment.
“It’s going to be another exciting test to come up against a player of that calibre who’s in the form that he is.
“We’ll see how we go with that on (Saturday morning).”
Irvine said the Socceroos intended to “make a statement” against Bellingham and England.
“Every time we play together, it’s an opportunity to make a statement and create special moments and special memories,” he said.
“That’s why you play international football. It’s what you dream about as a kid to play on the big stage and create those kinds of memories, whether it’s in a friendly or in a major competition.”
Irvine hopes the Socceroos can emulate the feat of the 2003 Australian team that won 3-1 in London against an England side containing the likes of David Beckham, Michael Owen, Frank Lampard and Paul Scholes.
“I remember it well,” Irvine said.
“It was a big moment, kind of the development of where that team was heading towards (the) 2006 (World Cup). It was probably a big stepping stone on that pathway.
“Even though it was a friendly, it’s a memorable result in Australian football history.”
Securing another upset win over England would be a similarly “big stepping stone” in the Socceroos’ journey to next year’s Asian Cup and the 2006 World Cup.
“The end goal of this process is to get to another World Cup for us. The immediate target is the Asian Cup coming up in January.” Irvine said.
“It’s our major confederation tournament, and we want to win it – that’s got to be our goal.
“A successful Asian Cup campaign and automatic (World Cup) qualification are definitely the realistic targets of this team.”
England v Australia
Saturday, 5.45am (AEDT)
Wembley Stadium, London
TV: Network 10