Golden oldie Aussies can’t help Socceroos spring surprise
Australia’s golden generation, featuring the likes of players in their prime as Mark Viduka, Mark Schwarzer, Harry Kewell, Brett Emerton, Tim Cahill, Lucas Neill and Mark Bresciano, has ended. However, the future remains bright for the Socceroos, who boast a promising up-and-coming team.
The latter trio are still a part of the Aussie setup and, despite their advanced age (all over 34), they all hope to make Ange Postecoglou’s 23-man World Cup squad.
Recently appointed Postecoglou, who gained four Australia caps as a player, prepares for his side’s extremely tough Group B at the finals, that consists of holders Spain, European giants the Netherlands and Chile, who recently defeated England at Wembley.
Most would say this is an impossible task for the Socceroos to qualify from, or even pick up a point from this group, and they are big outsides to make a huge leap into the next round at 10/1, and 66/1 to somehow top their pool.
This will be their fourth World Cup finals, and they have only once reached the last 16, under Guus Hiddink in Germany 2006. They are priced at 12/1 to exit that stage again.
Of the Aussies from the golden generation still playing, New York Red Bulls forward Cahill will be picked for the finals, barring injury. The former Toffees star was a key part of qualification, and lead from the front especially at the end of the campaign and in recent friendlies.
Australia’s all-time top scorer Cahill was ably assisted by Bayer Leverkusen forward Robbie Kruse and Joshua Kennedy of Nagoya Grampus. With the former ruled out, veteran Archie Thompson, who boasts a fantastic record of just more than a goal per game for his country, is likely to make the squad, along with Frankfurt youngster Mathew Leckie.
While Australia could rely on picking players from the English Premier League in the past, only Crystal Palace and national captain Mile Jedinak remains a regular in the top-flight.
The midfielder, 29, has been an ever-present in the league this season for the Eagles, as he has helped them to the verge of a top 10 position, and will hope to carry on that remarkable momentum into Brazil.
Postecoglou did not feature experienced trio Brett Holman, one of Aston Villa, Neill and Bresciano for Australia’s most recent friendly with Ecuador, and it remains to be seen whether they can make their way back into the setup.
Ahead of that match, which they lost 4-3, Postecoglou said: “I’ve made a conscious decision that the time has come it’s time to build a team that will be strong for years to come.
“This squad reflects that direction, both in the short term and the long term,” he added. “The squad to face Ecuador represents the first steps in what I believe is the building of the next golden generation for Australian football.”
Previously uncapped British-based players Chris Herd (Aston Villa), Curtis Good (on loan at Dundee United from Newcastle) and Massimo Luongo (Swindon Town) were in that squad, and could make the plane.
Neill, meanwhile, recently joined Championship side Doncaster Rovers on loan from Watford in a last-ditch desperation attempt to get included, and will hope to be a centurion by the time the tournament ends.
The goalkeeping berth is the big worry, with the international retirement of Australia’s most-capped player Schwarzer. It seems that Club Bruges stopper Mathew Ryan will get the number one jersey, as he is the only one available who plays regularly, other than domestic-based players.
Liverpool’s Brad Jones and Mitchell Langerak of Borussia Dortmund will challenge for the spot, but will likely go to Brazil just as backup.
Another older player who Postecoglou will have to pick is Luke Wilkshire, 32. The Dynamo Moscow right back is a regular for his club side, and will provide much-needed experience to the back four, if Neill is not included.
A player to look out for is Celtic midfielder Tom Rogic (on loan at Melbourne Victory). The 21-year old, who already has nine caps, is certainly one for the future and will hope to shine at the finals.
Dutch-based young duo Tommy Orr (Utrecht) and Jason Davidson (Heracles Almelo) can also make an impression, with the left sided midfielder and versatile defender respectively already playing regularly in the top-flight.
Middlesbrough centre back/right back Rhys Williams, who did not make it to the 2010 World Cup through injury, is likely to miss out again due to damaging his achilles tendon.