Allow me to daydream for a moment that I am the head coach of the Australian national football team, the Socceroos.
Today I will be announcing the most important team selection of my career: the Socceroos squad who will compete at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, less than two months away.
My selection policy will be guided by the principle that in order for players to be considered for selection, players must be playing regular football for their clubs at a strong competitive level. However, I also need to be conscious of the fact that some positions on the park and in the supporting squad may need to be filled by players who are of a high calibre but may not be necessarily earning consistent pitch time at their club. This has always been a conundrum in Australian football. I will not however under any circumstances pick a player on past reputation.
I am also acutely aware of, but undaunted by the fact most pundits have declared that Australia’s chances of progressing past the group stage of the World Cup are extremely remote. Spain, Netherlands and Chile are all excellent football nations. Spain in particular is a World Cup favorite. Realistically, Australia will aim for a second place finish in the group, allowing for progress to the next round. However, the prevailing attitude will of course be to win every game.
I must select an Australian World Cup squad that is consistent with the FIFA approved amount of 23 players. In addition, I will need to consider an additional 7 standby players in the event of injury/other withdrawals from my squad of 23. This brings the total number of potential players to 30.
I am picking the best team possible to compete at the world’s biggest sporting event, but I also want to ensure we build a strong foundation for next year’s Asian Cup tournament (of which Australia is host) and the 2018 World Cup in Russia. I firmly believe that the squad I select for this World Cup will defy expectations and do Australia proud.
I present my selection of Socceroos for the 2014 Australian World Cup squad.
BRENTON’S 2014 AUSTRALIAN WORLD CUP SQUAD
Goalkeepers: Mat RYAN, Adam FEDERICI, Mitch LANGERAK
Defenders: Matthew SPIRANOVIC, Curtis GOOD, Jason DAVIDSON, Ivan FRANJIC, Alex WILKINSON, Lucas NEILL, Nikolai Topor-Stanley
Defensive Midfielders: Mile JEDINAK (C), Mark MILLIGAN
Midfielders/ Wingers: Massimo LUONGO, Matt McKAY, Mark BRESCIANO, James HOLLAND, Tommy OAR, Michael ZULLO, Tom ROGIC
Attacking Midfielders/ Forwards: Tim CAHILL (VC), Matt LECKIE, James TROISI, Brett HOLMAN
Reserves: Brad JONES (Goalkeeper), Sasa OGNENOVSKI (Defender), Luke Wilkshire (Defender), Aaron MOOY (Midfield), Josh Kennedy (Striker), Dario VIDOSIC (Attacking Midfielder), Mile STERJOVSKI (Winger/Forward)
(See below comments for an updated squad as at 13/05/2014).
Formation The team should look to play a 4-2-3-1 formation, with both roving wing backs and at least one, possibly two defensive midfielder’s. While individual strategy will undoubtedly exist to counter each opponent Australia faces, the focus of this formation will largely be on a counter-attacking style of football, deploying attacking midfielders and wingers in a versatile manner with regular switch play, as match conditions allow.
Goalkeepers: World Cup squads traditionally consist of three goalkeepers and this squad is no exception. With the retirement of long-term custodian Mark Schwarzer, there is a great opportunity for one of the three players selected to take the number one position for the Socceroos, not only in this tournament but in the longer term.
Name: Mat Ryan, Position: Goalkeeper, Club: Brugge (Belgium), Age: 21, Socceroo’s appearances: 5
Ryan completed the move to Belgian Pro League side, Club Brugge in June 2013 after a successful stint at the Central Coast Mariners and has not looked back since. Likely Socceroos #1.
Name: Adam Federici, Position: Goalkeeper, Club: Reading (England), Age: 29, Socceroo’s appearances: 8
Federici plays his club football at English Championship club, Reading where he is the number one goalkeeper. He is an experience gloveman who would have played more games for Australia if it weren’t for the long custodianship of Mark Schwarzer. Alternative #1 to Ryan.
Name: Mitch Langerak, Position: Goalkeeper, Club: Borussia Dortmund (Germany), Age: 25, Socceroos appearances: 3
Langerak made the big move from Melbourne Victory to German giant, Borussia Dortmund in May 2010. Langerak has struggled for game time at Dortmund making just 8 senior team appearances. Likely 3rd choice Goalkeeper at this tournament but future #1.
Defenders: This has been a problem area for the Socceroos over recent years with inconsistent selection policies mostly to blame. A settled central pairing remains a key issue. The players selected represent some of our brightest prospects as well as reliable, senior veterans.
Name: Matthew Spiranovic, Position: Central Defender/ Defensive Midfielder, Club: Western Sydney Wanderers (Australia), Age: 25, Socceroo’s appearances: 17
Back home after stints in Germany, Japan and the Middle East, Spiranovic has been a consistent performer for WSW this season. Likely starting CB at World Cup.
Name: Curtis Good, Position: Central Defender/ Left back, Club: Dundee United (Scotland) on loan from Newcastle United (England), Age: 21, Socceroo’s appearances: 1
Good is a bolter in this World Cup squad. After a successful season at Melbourne Heart in 2011-12, Good signed with EPL side Newcastle in 2012 before going on loan, firstly at Championship outfit, Bradford City and more recently with Scottish PL side, Dundee. Likely substitute/ reserve player at World Cup.
Name: Jason Davidson, Position: Left Back/ Wing back, Club: Heracles Almelo (Netherlands), Age: 22, Socceroo’s appearances: 5
Davidson is a bright prospect who has been playing regularly for his Eredivisie team. A product of Japanese football academy whose father (Alan Davidson) was also a former professional and Socceroo. Davidson will likely start for Australia in a crucial wing back role.
Name: Ivan Franjic, Position: Right Back/ Wing back/ Winger, Club: Brisbane Roar (Australia), Age: 26, Socceroo’s appearances: 7
Franjic has had an excellent season at A League Premiers, Brisbane Roar. Franjic is a bolter into the World Cup starting 11 where he will likely feature in a crucial wing back role. One to watch.
Name: Alex Wilkinson, Position: Central or wide defender, Club: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (South Korea), Age: 29, Socceroo’s appearances: 1
After a successful period at the Central Coast Mariners, Wilkinson has excelled as a centre-back in the K-League. His good form and regular playing time at Jeonbuk should ensure he will challenge for a starting spot at the World Cup.
Name: Lucas Neill, Position: Right back/ Centre back, Club: Doncaster Rovers (England) on loan from Watford (England), Age: 36, Socceroo’s appearances: 96
Former Socceroos captain and without doubt the most controversial selection in this squad. Neill is a highly decorated player who has struggled for consistent football in recent years. However, his determination for selection has surprisingly seen him earn a contract with Watford in the English Championship. A recent short term loan opportunity to fellow outfit, Doncaster Rovers should see Neill earn at least one month of regular football. Neill must accept his role as a squad player and mentor for young defenders. Unlikely to be a default starting player.
Name: Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Position: Central defender, Club: Western Sydney Wanderers (Australia), Age: 28, Socceroo’s appearances: 2
A solid option for the Socceroos in the heart of defence. Topor-Stanley has had an outstanding season with Western Sydney Wanderers and will battle the likes of Wilkinson and Neill for a CB spot partnering his club team-mate, Spiranovic.
Defensive Midfielders: Two selected, just one certain to be a starting player. Possibly one of the most important positions in the Socceroos line-up.
Name: Mile Jedinak (c), Position: Defensive Midfielder, Club: Crystal Palace (England), Age: 29, Socceroo’s appearances: 43
Jedinak is the new Socceroos Captain and the only player in the entire squad playing regularly at top flight level in the English Premier League. A strong, consistent and reliable midfielder who is also more than capable of scoring spectacular, long range goals.
Name: Mark Milligan, Position: Defensive Midfielder/ Central and wide defender, Club: Melbourne Victory (Australia), Age: 28, Socceroo’s appearances: 27
A natural leader and fierce competitor who has proven himself capable of playing at a higher level. After a successful spell in Japan, Milligan returned to Australia and has led from the front for Melbourne Victory, attracting interest from a number of European clubs including in the EPL. Won’t start ahead of Jedinak, but could play alongside him or in defence ahead of other candidates.
Midfielders: The Socceroos midfield is without doubt the engine of this Socceroos line-up. It will feature both attacking and defensive minded central midfielders and wide players who will need to bring the wing back’s into the game. How they fare will be crucial to Australia’s overall performance in Brazil.
Name: Massimo Luongo, Position: Central Midfielder, Club: Swindon Town (England), Age: 21, Socceroo’s appearances: 1
Luongo is a product of EPL side Tottenham having featured for them at under 18 level. He has since enjoyed a successful stint at Championship outfit, Swindon Town and is playing good, regular football. Not yet a starting player but will possibly get pitch time.
Name: Matt McKay, Position: Central Midfielder/ Left Back, Club: Brisbane Roar (Australia), Age: 31, Socceroo’s appearances: 45
McKay is a solid A league midfielder but owes most of his Socceroos experience to the fact he has filled a Left back position for an extended period following the retirement of Scott Chipperfield and fading David Carney. His experience and versatility is good insurance for the tournament though he is unlikely to be a preferred starting player.
Name: Mark Bresciano, Position: Central Midfielder/ Wide Midfielder/ Attacking Midfielder, Club: Al-Gharafa (United Arab Emirates), Age: 34, Socceroo’s appearances: 73
A talented and hugely experienced veteran of the Socceroos. Bresciano is no longer at his peak. However he provides leadership and class for an inexperienced team. A lack of match fitness is possibly the only hindrance preventing Bresciano from starting in midfield for his third consecutive World Cup.
Name: James Holland, Position: Central Midfielder, Club: Austria Wein (Austria), Age: 24, Socceroo’s appearances: 12
Holland has established himself as a consistent performer, beginning in the A-league before signing contracts in The Netherlands and now Austria. Holland is playing good, regular and will be a certain starter for the Socceroos.
Name: Tommy Oar, Position: Left sided Midfielder/ Winger/ Left back, Club: FC Utrecht (Netherlands), Age: 22, Socceroo’s appearances: 13
One of the standout players in the squad. Tommy Oar is a consistent performer at club level. Fast, agile and able to provide a constant crossing threat. Oar will most certainly start for the Socceroos.
Name: Michael Zullo, Position: Left Winger/ Left back, Club: Adelaide United (Australia) on loan from FC Utrecht (Netherlands), Age: 25, Socceroo’s appearances: 10
Zullo is a versatile left-sided player who possesses speed and creativity. A solid season on loan at Adelaide United has enabled Zullo to build match fitness and he deserves late game pitch time in Brazil.
Name: Tom Rogic, Position: Central Midfielder/ Attacking Midfielder, Club: Melbourne Victory (Australia) on loan from Celtic (Scotland), Age: 21, Socceroo’s appearances: 9
A technically gifted play-maker. Rogic has been loaned to Melbourne Victory to allow him to gain match fitness with the World Cup in mind. He has however failed to sparkle to date despite several promising displays. He should however, be fit to play a big role in Brazil, either as a starting player or impact player off the bench.
Forward’s: Playing a 4-2-3-1 formation means there are less opportunities for centre forward’s and out and out attacking players. The players selected are a mixture of attackinf midfielders/ false 9′s and out and out strikers.
Name: Tim Cahill (vc), Position: Attacking Midfielder/ Striker/ Central Midfielder, Club: New York Red Bulls (USA), Age: 34, Socceroo’s appearances: 67
The most recognisable face in this Socceroos squad. Cahill is Australia’s all time leading goal scorer and can still be regarded as one of the best Australians players. He will be a leader on the field and a certain starter who will look to emulate past heroics on the world’s biggest stage.
Name: Matthew Leckie, Position: Striker/ Wide Right Forward, Club: FSV Frankfurt (Germany), Age: 23, Socceroo’s appearances: 6
Leckie is the in form Australian Striker, playing at a quality level. A product of Adelaide United, Leckie has made a big impact on the Bundesliga, together with injured Socceroo, Robbie Kruse. Likely starter.
Name: James Troisi, Position: Attacking Midfielder/ False 9/ Striker, Club: Melbourne Victory (Australia) on loan from Atalanta (Italy), Age: 25, Socceroo’s appearances: 9
Troisi has lit up the A League this season with consistent high performances and a proven goal scoring record. He is a creative player and versatile in attack. Expect him to get minutes as an impact player for the Socceroos and good form may help force his way into the starting team.
Name: Brett Holman, Position: Attacking Midfielder/ False 9, Club: Al Nasr (United Arab Emirates), Age: 30, Socceroo’s appearances: 63
Holman starred at the 2010 World Cup and was looking at bigger and better things, signing for EPL side Aston Villa after the World Cup. However, Holman failed to establish himself in the team and went elsewhere in search of regular football. Unlikely to start ahead of Leckie/Cahill.
Reserve list: The following 7 players are officially on stand-by as injury-replacements for the above list of 23 players.
Name: Brad Jones, Position: Goalkeeper, Club: Liverpool (England), Age: 32, Socceroo’s appearances: 4
The Liverpool FC number-two goalkeeper is a proven, reliable choice to replace any of the three selected goalkeepers.
Name: Sasa Ognenovski, Position: Central defender, Club: Sydney FC (Australia), Age: 35, Socceroo’s appearances: 22
Played a pivotal role for the Socceroos in the post-Craig Moore era. Unlucky not to be picked ahead of fellow veteran, Lucas Neill.
Name: Luke Wilkshire, Position: Right back/ Right Midfield/ Central Midfield, Club: Dynamo Moscow (Russia), Age: 32, Socceroo’s appearances: 79
Another experienced Socceroo who continues to play regularly for his Russian club and is unlucky to earn outright selection. Wilkshire can also play as a Right sided midfielder and centrally and has in the past taken long crossing set pieces for the Socceroos. Would be a reliable choice to fill either a defence or midfield injury holes.
Name: Aaron Mooy, Position: Central Midfield, Club: Western Sydney Wanderers, Age: 23, Socceroo’s appearances: 3
Mooy is an intelligent and creative midfielder with a bright future. Another player who is unlucky not to gain outright selection but one to watch for the 2015 Asian Cup and 2018 World Cup.
Name: Josh Kennedy, Position: Striker, Club: Nagoya Grampus (Japan), Age: 31, Socceroo’s appearances: 33
Kennedy is unlucky to miss out on selection outright, however his aerial prowess in the J-League will be less effective against Australia’s confirmed group opponents.
Name: Dario Vidosic, Position: Attacking Midfielder/ False 9, Club: FC Sion (Switzerland), Age: 27, Socceroo’s appearances: 20
Vidošić is a strong, creative player. If not for the evergreen Bresciano and Cahill, Vidošić would be a confirmed final squad player. He would also be the first on the plane to Brazil if Rogic is proven unfit.
Name: Mile Sterjovski, Position: Attacking Midfielder/ Winger/ Striker, Club: Central Coast Mariners (Australia), Age: 34, Socceroo’s appearances: 43
For all intents and purposes, Sterjovski’s career as a professional footballer will be over in the next few weeks. However, such has been in form and prowess of late, it is impossible to ignore his credentials and versatility on the pitch for a shock Socceroos recall.
(See below comments for an updated squad as at 13/05/2014).