Nathaniel Atkinson is dreaming of representing Australia at the World Cup, following his call up to the national team for their double-header at the end of the month.

The Socceroos play Japan in a week's time and Saudi Arabia five days after that as they look to secure their spot at Qatar 2022.

Australia are currently third in their group, but still stand a good chance of automatic qualification if they win both of their remaining games.

For Atkinson, who arrived at Hearts in January from Melbourne City, it would be an honour to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Tim Cahill, Harry Kewell, Lucas Neill and Vince Grella by playing on the world stage.

Reflecting on his call-up, Atkinson said: "When you get this type of news, the first thing you want to do is tell your family because they've been there for the journey and they were over the moon.

"It means a lot. I've come close a lot of times in the extended squads, but I got Covid one time and then I broke down with injury for about 13 weeks before the Olympics as well, which was a heart-breaking thing.

"Now I'm fully fit and in Europe playing my football, I think it's come at a good time and it means the world to me.

"My earliest memory of watching the Socceroos was them against Japan at the World Cup and it turns out that's the first game we're going to be playing.

"I think every young boy or football player, the dream is to play at at least one World Cup.

"The World Cup is the biggest stage of football and we've got a good opportunity to win these last two games and automatically qualify for the World Cup.

Nathaniel Atkinson reveals his Hearts 'sink or swim' mentality as he opens up on World Cup dream after Australia call-up

"If I can keep my form up at Hearts and perform well for the Socceroos and we make it to the World Cup, it's going to put me in a good spot to make a dream come true."

The 22-year-old has made a further 10 appearances for Hearts since his debut at Auchinleck Talbot in the Scottish Cup.

Injuries have meant he has featured more than the management team might have originally anticipated so early in his Jam Tarts career, but Atkinson is convinced it has helped him settle in quicker.

"I think the best way to do it is get thrown in there and adapt," he said.

"I think that's the best way to do it, because it's either sink or swim and the best way to improve is to play games.

"You can train as much as you want, but playing games is always going to make you better and playing as many as I have because of injuries has let me acclimatise much quicker."

Hearts have a double-header of Edinburgh derbies coming up in April, first in the league at Tynecastle then the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden.

Atkinson is relishing the prospect of featuring in both matches.

He added: "You want to play in the biggest games on the biggest occasion and I don't think it gets much bigger than a derby, especially against Hibs.

"Both teams have such rich history and are big rivals and these are the games you want to get up for in the morning.

"It's unbelievable. You see full stadiums with passionate fans... it's amazing."

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