While Socceroos boss Ange Postecoglou has picked a 30-man squad for next month’s World Cup with an eye to the future, he is promising they are good enough to deliver a “wild ride” in Brazil.
Australia are given little hope of advancing from a group involving Chile, the Netherlands and Spain, but that has not stopped the national boss selecting 19 players with single-figure international appearances.
Postecoglou is adamant it will be more than just a learning experience, however, affirming during Wednesday’s news conference at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art that each player in the interim selection is good enough to hold their own.
“We are going on to the biggest stage in the world facing absolutely the best in the world and we want to measure ourselves against that,” he said. “We have over 15,000 Aussies going over to watch the games and we’ll have the whole nation watching in the middle of the night. I’m not going to tell them not to get up and not feel great about it.
“I want them to feel excited about watching this team and maybe give them that glimpse into the future and, who knows, maybe take them on a bit of a wild ride where the unexpected happens.”
However, Postecoglou was at pains to point out that a ticket to Brazil, which will be decided when he cuts the final group to 23 players next week, offered no guarantee for the Asian Cup or the 2018 World Cup.
“I’m trying to get away from that [idea] that they’re in the squad for the next four years," he said. "I don’t want anyone to feel like they’re guaranteed a spot. These guys get first crack at it, for sure, and it’s a real good crack at it because they’re going to a World Cup but there’s guys outside here who might get an opportunity down the track. I’d like to think we’ll get a core out of it, yes, but that doesn’t mean the door is shut.”
Losing decades of cumulative of experience in defence has many fans worried about conceding masses of goals, but the coach says rejuvenation was a necessity.
“I know people will focus on it but how are we ever going to get caps [into players] if they don’t play games,” Postecoglou said. “We’re always going to be stuck with guys on one or two caps if we don’t give them any opportunities. At some time, that process has to start. I made a decision fairly early that the process would start now. At some point, all those players who played umpteen times for their country had to play their first game. They probably played them as teenagers or in their early 20s, which is what some of these guys will be doing.”
The coach said many were on his radar until recently – such as defensive duo Michael Zullo and Tomislav Mrcela – but he was more than content with the make-up of his squad.
“It’s not too far off from where I thought it would be, apart from a few who were taken out of my control through long-term injury,” he said. “I would have liked a few more to have had some more football under their belts or maybe not be injured at the wrong time but overall I’m pretty happy with where I’ve landed.”
The week-long training camp in Gosford, which begins with players arriving on Thursday, will be a tactically intense period.
“We’ve spent a lot of time in the lead-up focussing in on the opposition so that when we get into camp we can focus on playing the way we want to play,” Postecoglou said. “Within that will be the competitive edge that we want because they’re competing for spots on the plane.”
A notable revelation from Postecoglou after the squad announcement was Preston North End defender Bailey Wright would not be given any leniency to appear for his club if they make the League One play-off final, set down for May 25.
Wright has been told that the Socceroos will exercise their right under FIFA law to ensure he is in camp no later than May 18. That enables him to play in the second-leg of the play-off semi-final against Peterborough; the tie is locked at 1-1 after the first leg.
“If you’re selected for the World Cup, you can’t play after the 18th, unless you’re playing the UEFA Champions League final,” Postecoglou said. “He’s been selected in the national team, so if he wants to be on the plane [in the final 23-man squad], yes [he needs to return].”
The 21-year old mostly plays as a centre-half for his club but may also be used as an option at left-back.
“We’ll have a look at him when we get into camp," Postecoglou said. "There’s probably a couple in there who I think could be fairly versatile and he’s one of them. He’s played as a left-sided stopper all year but I haven’t necessarily gone for a doubling up of every position because there are players in the group who can play in a couple of different slots.”
Australia's extended 30-man squad
Mark BIRIGHITTI (Newcastle Jets), Eugene GALEKOVIC (Adelaide United), Mitchell LANGERAK (B.V. Borussia 09 Dortmund), Mat RYAN (Club Brugge KV)
Jason DAVIDSON (SC Heracles Almelo), Ivan FRANJIC (Brisbane Roar), Curtis GOOD (Dundee United), Ryan McGOWAN (Shandong Luneng Taishan), Matthew SPIRANOVIC (Western Sydney Wanderers), Alex WILKINSON (Jeonbuk Hyundai ), Luke WILKSHIRE (FK Dinamo Moscow), Bailey WRIGHT (Preston North End)
Oliver BOZANIC (FC Luzern), Mark BRESCIANO (Al Gharafa), Joshua BRILLANTE (Newcastle Jets), James HOLLAND (FK Austria Vienna), Mile JEDINAK (Crystal Palace), Massimo LUONGO (Swindon Town), Matthew McKAY (Brisbane Roar), Mark MILLIGAN (Melbourne Victory), Tommy OAR (FC Utrecht), Tom ROGIC (Melbourne Victory), Adam SAROTA (FC Utrecht), James TROISI (Melbourne Victory), Dario VIDOSIC (FC Sion)
Tim CAHILL (New York Red Bulls), Ben HALLORAN (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Josh KENNEDY (Nagoya Grampus 8), Matthew LECKIE (FSV Frankfurt 1899), Adam TAGGART (Newcastle Jets)