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Socceroos lure for Melb City’s Atkinson

A senior international call-up before next year’s World Cup is firmly in Nathaniel Atkinson’s sights as the Melbourne City defender aims to play a key role in his club’s A-League Men’s title defence.

Atkinson was instrumental in City’s grand final win over Sydney FC last season and revelled in his experiences at the Tokyo Olympics under Socceroos boss Graham Arnold.

But the versatile 22-year-old right-back is far from satisfied.

Arnold’s instructions to Atkinson have been simple ahead of City’s ALM season opener against Brisbane Roar on Friday night.

“The main message was to start the season well and put your name forward and anything is possible after that,” Atkinson said.

“It’s a big driving factor – every young boy wants to play for the Socceroos.

“The World Cup is coming up and that’s definitely my major motivation for this year, to play the best football I possibly can and get in the best situation to put my name forward.”

There is no shortage of Socceroos experience on City’s talent-laden roster, boosted by the arrival of attacking weapon Mathew Leckie after his decade in Europe.

The 30-year-old, who appeared for Australia at the last two World Cups, has already proved a valuable sounding board for the ambitious Atkinson.

“He’s been there and done that overseas,” Atkinson said.

“I want to push on overseas and to the Socceroos as well and he gives us those little pointers about what he did to get there.

“He’s definitely a big help in that situation.”

Atkinson is hungry for more success after helping City complete a premiership-championship double under Patrick Kisnorbo last season.

But he knows the target is firmly on their back as they go in search of more silverware.

“We’re the reigning champions and everyone wants to hunt us, but (Kisnorbo) is trying to keep us in the mentality where we want to be the hunters still,” Atkinson said.

“We’ve had a feeling of winning and we want to do that again.”

City tuned up for the Brisbane clash at AAMI Park with a comfortable 3-0 FFA Cup win over second-tier South Melbourne last week.

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