Preston North End defender Bailey Wright’s World Cup dream will edge closer to reality tonight when Australia face Chile in Cuiaba.
The uncapped 21-year-old was the surprise choice in the Socceroos squad for Brazil.
Although unlikely to be in the XI at the Arena Pantanal (11pm), all non-starters are named as substitutes so Wright will be on the bench.
He is the first PNE player to go to a World Cup since Sir Tom Finney and Tom Docherty did so 56 years ago.
In 1958 in Sweden, Sir Tom scored in a 2-2 draw against USSR but missed the rest of the tournament through injury.
Although named in the Scotland squad, Docherty was not selected for any of their matches.
Wright, who joined North End as a 16-year-old after impressing in a week’s trial, survived two cuts of the Aussie squad to reach Brazil.
He is one of only six defenders selected by Ange Postecoglou.
Speaking in the build-up to the tournament this week, Melbourne-born Wright said he was ‘extremely proud and honoured’ to be representing his country.
His parents and girlfriend will be cheering him on in Brazil as Australia tackle an extremely tough group which also contains holders Spain and Holland.
Wright will be cheered along from further afield by his Preston team-mates, the PNE coaching staff and of course the Deepdale faithful.
“It is brilliant for Bailey to be at the World Cup,” North End striker Kevin Davies told the Evening Post.
“I’m really pleased for him and I have been so impressed with his ability, attitude and work ethic.
“He is the type of defender who puts his body on the line for the team.
“I’m not sure where Bailey is at in terms of starting, but he will have the chance to impress in training.
“He worked so hard at Preston, giving everything in training and doing the extra stuff in the gym.
“Quite simply Bailey is a young lad who enjoys playing his football.”
PNE’s goalkeeper coach Alan Kelly, who went to two World Cups in 1994 and 2002 with the Republic of Ireland, said: “I think every North End fan will be following Australia.
“When one of your own goes to the World Cup, it is great for the club.
“Bailey is a fantastic trainer with a great attitude, and importantly he is a great lad.
“When a squad is together for six or seven weeks, you need players who can mix well.
“Bailey has earned his right to be at the World Cup and hopefully we will see him step on to the pitch at some point.”