The West

Socceroos family there for him after near miss
Fans and family: Mark Birighitti with cousins Olivia and Louis Giglia, sister Linda Squillace, cousin Leon Giglia, mother Fran, cousin Monique Giglia and father Carlo. Picture: Michael Wilson/The West Australian

You would have to search far and wide to find someone who watched today's Socceroos game as closely as WA goalkeeper Mark Birighitti.

But you would have no chance of finding someone who came as close to making Australia's World Cup squad.

Dropped from the squad during last week's final cull, 23-year-old Birighitti was placed on standby pending a fitness test for fellow goalkeeper Mitch Langerak.

Coach Ange Postecoglou had until yesterday to recall the Perth Soccer Club product back to Brazil for the clash with Chile.

Missing out by such a fine margin would devastate many players, but Birighitti has a cool head on his shoulders, a loving family at his back and a big future in front of him.

Surrounded by his support network in Perth, including his adoring twin cousins Louis and Leon Giglia, the Newcastle Jets star will sweat on every minute of this morning's game.

"We did a lot of video analysis on Chile and the one thing you can be sure of is they're going to fight for 90 minutes," he said. "They're a very fit side so it's important for us to do things quickly in transition and try to play forward as much as we can."

Birighitti started playing soccer as a goalkeeper aged six.

By the age of 16, he was going to school three days a week, and spending the rest of his time training with Perth Glory and studying in the evenings.

He sacrificed a lot for the sport during his teenage years, choosing training sessions over parties and goalkeeping clinics over school holidays.

His parents, Carlo, 51, and Fran, 52, also made sacrifices, and they were not always enthused about his single-minded pursuit of a professional soccer career. "I was fretting because every young boy wants to be a professional footballer," Mrs Birighitti said.

"I always pushed Mark to have a 'Plan B' but he just wasn't interested in anything else.

"He's had that mindset ever since he was little and I have to say I'm very, very proud of him."

Birighitti, who was recently linked to German club Bayer Leverkusen, said last week's disappointment would serve only to motivate him.

"It's just given me more drive to make sure I don't miss out next time," he said.

"I want to be the No.1 keeper at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. I'll do whatever it takes to get there."

The West Australian

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