Trent Sainsbury over injury nightmare as Australia chases World Cup spot

A sprinkler ruined Trent Sainsbury's World Cup dream two years ago, and the Socceroos defender is hoping for a much smoother run to football's showpiece event this time around.

The 24-year-old has joined his fellow Socceroos in Perth before Thursday night's World Cup qualifier against Iraq at nib Stadium.

He was considered a World Cup bolter for Brazil in 2014, but then he broke his kneecap after landing on a sprinkler while making his debut for PEC Zwolle in the Dutch top flight.

The injury was as bizarre as it was heartbreaking, and Sainsbury's six-month stint on the sidelines blew his World Cup hopes.

"It's taken a while to get over it. It was almost like a bad break-up," Sainsbury said on Monday.

"You don't expect that sort of thing to happen on a professional football pitch in Europe in one of the bigger leagues.

"It's just crazy. You never think it's going to happen to you.

"I can look back on it and laugh now because I'm back fit and fully playing."

Sainsbury is expected to line up alongside Matthew Spiranovic in the heart of defence against Iraq.

The Socceroos need to finish in the top two of their group if they are to secure a 2018 World Cup berth in Russia.

Japan, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates are the other nations in Group B, and Sainsbury says it's imperative for the Socceroos to start their campaign with a win.

"I'd say this is probably one of the most important games we're going to have in the next few months," Sainsbury said.

"You've got to win every game at home if you're going to be up there in the top two progressing to Russia."

After taking on Iraq, the Socceroos face off against the U.A.E. in Abu Dhabi on Sept. 6.

Sainsbury made the bold move from Europe to China in January, linking up with Chinese Super League outfit Jiangsu Suning on a three-year deal.

The West Australian has enjoyed the cultural change, and recently became engaged to his girlfriend.

Sainsbury said playing against some of the best strikers in the world in the Chinese Super League had helped his game.