Football Federation Australia chairman David Gallop prefaced Wednesday's announcement of the provisional World Cup squad by saying there was "an element of nation building in this." Head coach Ange Postecoglou then unveiled what will be one of the least experienced squads in Brazil.
Football Federation Australia chairman David Gallop prefaced Wednesday’s announcement of the provisional World Cup squad by saying there was “an element of nation building in this.” Head coach Ange Postecoglou then unveiled what will be one of the least experienced squads in Brazil.
Australia faces defending champion Spain, 2010 finalist Netherlands and Chile in a tough Group B and has been given little chance of advancing to the knockout stage. Hours before the squad was announced, former Socceroos captain Paul Wade predicted the Australians would get “hammered.”
With an average age around 23 and bereft of a number of veterans who competed at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, the 30-man squad that Postecoglou will take into camp ahead of a May 26 friendly against South Africa seems to have the 2018 World Cup as more of a focus than the one immediately ahead.
Mark Bresciano was recalled from suspension and joins Tim Cahill, Mark Milligan, Josh Kennedy and Luke Wilkshire among the Socceroos in line for a third World Cup.
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Otherwise, it’s a youthful squad and contains 10 players from the domestic A-League. Bailey Wright, a 21-year-old central defender for Preston North End in England’s third tier, and Fortuna Dusseldorf winger Ben Halloran are the uncapped players selected. Postecoglou will cut it down to 23 by June 2.
“We’ve had some injuries and disruptions, particularly in the defense. We have some challenges there, but overall I’m happy with the balance,” Postecoglou told a news conference. “Yes there is some inexperience …. (but) we needed to regenerate the team. We needed to make some meaningful change, but at the same time understand that it’s a World Cup.”
Bresciano served a four-month ban due to an illegal transfer involving clubs in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar when he joined Al Gharafa from Al Nasr, but Postecoglou said the veteran midfielder had shown enough in his recent matches to warrant selection. He also picked rangy Japan-based forward Kennedy, who scored a crucial goal in Australia’s qualifying campaign, for the first time since becoming head coach.
Wright surged into contention due to the unavailability of other players and the absence of long-time captain Lucas Neill, who was told by Postecoglou last week that he wouldn’t be part of Australia’s World Cup plans.
Wright was reportedly among the six players from Preston North End questioned by British police over spot-fixing allegations last month but has denied any wrongdoing.
“He’s only a young man beginning his career,” Postecoglou said. “But he has had some really strong consistent form at Preston North End in a team that has done well and is on the verge of promotion to the (English) Championship.
“It makes sense to bring him in and have a look at him in a national team environment.”
Crystal Palace midfielder Mile Jedinak, who is vying with Cahill as the likely new captain to replace Neill, was selected despite concern over a groin strain.
Postecoglou took over as national coach six months ago when Holger Osieck was fired in the wake of back-to-back 6-0 defeats to Brazil and France.
He knows there are experts predicting his team won’t score a goal in Brazil, but says he’s determined to field a team that attacks and takes its opportunities. And he wants to give the Australian audience “maybe a glimpse of the future.”
“Who knows, maybe take them on a wild ride when the unexpected happens,” he said. “What we can’t control are the expectations from the outside. If the opposition aren’t at their best, and there’s no guarantee they will be, because they’re going to be under some pressure, we’ll take that opportunity.”
Goalkeepers: Mark Birighitti, (Newcastle Jets), Eugene Galekovic (Adelaide United), Mitchell Langerak (Borussia Dortmund), Mat Ryan (Club Brugge).
Defenders: Jason Davidson (Heracles Almelo), Ivan Franjic (Brisbane Roar), Curtis Good (Newcastle United), Ryan McGowan (Shandong Luneng), Matthew Spiranovic, (Western Sydney Wanderers), Alex Wilkinson (Jeonbuk Hyundai), Luke Wilkshire (Dynamo Moscow), Bailey Wright (Preston North End)
Midfielders: Oliver Bozanic (Luzern), Mark Bresciano (Al Gharafa), Joshua Brilliante (Newcastle Jets), James Holland (Austria Wien), Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace), Massimo Luongo (Swindon Town), Matthew McKay (Brisbane Roar), Mark Milligan (Melbourne Victory), Tommy Oar (Utrecht), Tommy Rogic (Melbourne Victory), Adam Sarota (Utrecht), James Troisi (Melbourne Victory), Dario Vidosic (Sion).
Forwards: Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls), Ben Halloran (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Josh Kennedy (Nagoya Grampus), Matthew Leckie (FSV Frankfurt), Adam Taggart (Newcastle Jets)