THE LOGO has been on his bedroom wall for years but the Champions League is no longer a dream for Socceroo James Holland after his club Austria Vienna sealed their place in the group stages.
Austria secured their first ever spot in Europe’s top club competition with a 4-3 aggregate win over Croatian Champion’s Dinamo Zagreb despite losing 3-2 in the second leg at home.
In a nervy match, which saw AIS graduate and Dinamo captain Josip Simunic head into his own net, the Vienna club were on the verge of being dumped out on the away goals rule until substitute Roman Kienast scored with less than 10 minutes remaining.
Having starred in both legs for the Austrian Champions, Holland said he was still pinching himself at the prospect of taking on the best club sides in the world.
“It’s dream come true, it is the pinnacle of club football so it is something you grow up watching and something that I have always had the ambition of being in.
“After the game it was a relief as we were under the pump quite a bit and it is the first time in the club’s history that it has qualified.
“The atmosphere I guess once they scored the second goal there is that sort of pressure and to be honest tactically, we were terrible. In the first leg we were fantastic and closed down their threats quiet well but last night we gave them too much respect and they punished us.”
Having endured a frustrating time at previous club AZ Alkmaar where he struggled to get into the first team Holland said he had never given up on his dream of playing in the Champions League.
“I always believed, it was always a goal for me. I have had the Champions League symbol on my wall for a number of years and have woken up to it every day," he said.
“I went through periods where it was tough but I never stopped believing that if I continued to work hard that I would get there.”
With the 24-year-old set to find out Austria’s group stage opponents today, the former Newcastle Jet said he was hoping for one of Europe’s big guns.
“I grew up supporting Manchester United so that would be a special one for me but also someone like a Barcelona, Bayern Munich or Real Madrid," he said.
"I can’t really complain to be honest - what an experience it would be to play against those players.”
Despite his eagerness to face the heavyweights of Europe the midfielder conceded his side face a huge challenge.
“There is no shying away from the fact that it’s going to be a big step up and we are going to be the underdogs against any of the teams but hopefully we can compete and do well for the club and Austrian football," he said.
“Tactically we will need to be disciplined and hopefully we can do our jobs. We have a team of hard workers so that will not be problem.”
Currently locked in a fierce battle with the likes of Mile Jedinak and Mark Milligan for a starting berth in the Soccceroos midfield ahead of Brazil 2014, Holland said he hoped Champions League football would give his chances a boost.
He added: “In my position there is a lot of competition and for me to play in the Champions League is a huge plus coming into the World Cup and hopefully it can help me push for a starting spot.
“But firstly I will be focusing on doing well for my club.”