Corica and Popovic go from over-35s to the A-League's biggest stage

They're the closest of mates who played together for the Socceroos, Sydney FC, Sanfrecce Hiroshima – and perhaps the greatest over-35s team that Australia has ever seen.

Steve Corica and Tony Popovic will put their football brains to work against one another in Sunday's A-League grand final, but only two years ago they were working together, trying to squeeze a few more games out of their battle-weary bodies.

Opposition teams in the Blacktown District's Friday night over-35s competition must have been filled with dread when they realised who was playing for the Glenmore Redbacks, a star-studded team of retired greats like Corica, Popovic, David Zdrilic, Alex Tobin, Jason Culina, Tony Sekulic and Zeljko Kalac.

"It was good fun," Corica laughed. "I don't know if they were filthy or if they were looking forward to it because of who we were and who we played for before. We had a very good team.

Click Here: Sports Water Bottles

"[Popovic] still got on the ball – obviously we can't run as much, but we enjoyed it. We still enjoy winning. We lost I think maybe only one or two games … when we were all there, I don't think we lost too many."

Corica and Popovic walked the blue carpet together at Monday night's Dolan-Warren awards in Sydney, sharing a few laughs as they contemplated the magnitude of the week in front of them and the lives that have led them to this point.

They were always good friends but when Corica joined Popovic at J.League side Sanfrecce Hiroshima in 2000, their families became extra close. "I had my first daughter, his son came pretty much straight after that," Corica said. "We watched them grow up. Now it's funny we're playing in a grand final against each other as coaches."

Corica has the wood on Popovic's Perth Glory this season – the Sky Blues have claimed two wins from their three meetings in the A-League, the first of which came over in the west.

"Come Sunday, we both obviously want different things," Corica said. "But that comes with the job. You realise that – you can be the closest friends you want but we both want to win. We're both winners and only one person can come away with it, especially with this game."

Popovic praised Corica for what he described an "excellent, exceptional" first season as a senior coach, having taken over at Sydney FC following Graham Arnold's ascension to the Socceroos.

Corica's Sky Blues finished eight points behind the Glory on the A-League ladder, took them to the FFA Cup final and while they failed to get out of their group in the AFC Champions League, their performances clearly deserved more reward.

"I'm not surprised because knowing Steve as long as I have, we go way, way back and [I've seen] how dedicated he's been to his profession as an assistant and working his way up," Popovic said. "He knows the club inside out, he's got an opportunity, he's inherited a very good team but you still have to put your own style on it. Obviously, his man management skills are fantastic and he's doing a great job.

"It's fantastic, we're happy for each other … obviously come Sunday the competitiveness will come out but I'm delighted for him, and I know he is for me."