After careful consideration I believe the Socceroos squad should reflect youth and opportunity.
Having considered the options available and what Holger Osieck may do I have selected my team for the upcoming match against SaudiArabia.
It is a combination of Asian and Hyundai A-League based players. I don-t see the point in bringing back European-based players we know all about for what is a dead rubber.
There are limited opportunities to bring players into the national team set-up and assess them in a closed environment and this is a perfect opportunity to look at some of the fringe guys that could be the next generation of Qantas Socceroos.
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It-s not meant to be an A-League all star team. Players like Eugene Galekovic and Archie Thompson may deserve to be included based on form, but if they are not going to be important parts of our next Asian and World Cup squads, what-s the point in selecting them in front of a young up-and-comer?
Mat Ryan picks himself in goal. He has established himself as the No1 goalkeeper for the Qantas Australian U23s, putting himself ahead of Mark Birighitti and Andrew Redmayne with his performances, and showing the importance of regular first team football for young players.
It-s amazing how fast young players can progress when given an opportunity. Just look at the way in which Matt Leckie burst onto the scene and took the league by storm when he was thrown in the deep end at Adelaide.
It is important to have a blend of experienced and young players in any team. You can-t pick a bunch of 21-years-olds that have never played together before and expect cohesion.
To this end, I-ve picked Sasa Ognenovski as captain because he is currently a fixture in the full strength team and provides some steel and leadership in the eleven.
Similarly, selecting Matt Thompson to anchor the midfield next to the impressive, but internationally inexperienced Erik Paartalu and Mitch Nichols, provides some confidence and calmness to the team. At 29, he can still have an international future ahead of him.
Up front, I-d like to see Joel Griffiths rewarded for his stellar form in China by being given another crack.
Taking Josh Kennedy out of the equation, we don-t have too many big-bodied strikers. Matt Simon-s form has been rewarded with a lucrative K-League move, and his size and mobility should see him cause problems for any Asian defence.
Alex Brosque will be perfectly suited for the Saudis after honing his game in Japan and looks ready to take the next step and develop into a regular Socceroo.
Unlucky players might include Robbie Cornthwaite who had an outstanding first season with Chunnam Dragons in Korea. The depth of domestic centre-back spots in the ‘young pretenders- category also costs Eddy Bosnar a spot. Although it-s a shame he hasn-t figured more for the national team, I think the ship may have sailed for him. Unfortunately, I can-t find a spot for him ahead of the likes of Spiranovic and DeVere who look to be better long-term bets.
As part of the process of putting this squad together, I did some research into the A-League statistics from this season. It makes pretty grim reading in some respects for fans of the Australian national team.
The Top 10 goal scorers in order at the time of writing are Besart Berisha (Albania), Shane Smeltz (New Zealand), Jeremy Brockie (New Zealand), Ryan Griffiths, Matt Simon, Archie Thompson, Sergio Van Dijk (Netherlands), Bruno Cazarine (Brazil), Mate Dugandzic and Carlos Hernandez (Costa Rica).
Bearing in mind that Ryan Griffiths is a winger, Matt Simon left these shores a month ago and Archie is 33-years-old, it-s not that promising for the Aussies.
Looking at the assists chart, the reading is not much better. There are four Aussies in the Top 10, with Pedj Bojic and Aziz Behich the highest ranked. It-s shame that there are not more Australian midfielders or forwards in there.
On the topic of ones for the future, I-d also like to see some rookies drafted in as train-on members to give them invaluable national team experience. Players in this category might be Eli Babalj, Curtis Good, Mustafa Amini and Terry Antonis, for example.
This is great opportunity for Holger Osieck and his staff to assess the next generation of players at close quarters against high quality opposition, spicing up an otherwise dead rubber with some local interest - it would be a shame if they chose not to use it.
This would be my team for the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia in Melbourne on February 29.
Mat Ryan (GK) Michael Marrone (RB) Josh Rose (LB) Sasa Ognenovski (CB) (captain) Matthew Spiranovic (CB) Matt Thompson (MF) Erik Paartalu (MF) Mitch Nichols (MF) - playing in front of Thompson and Paartalu Joel Griffiths - CF Matt Simon - FW Alex Brosque - FW
Substitutes Danny Vukovic (GK) Mark Milligan (CB) Luke De Vere (CB) James Brown (MF) Nick Carle (MF) Mate Dugandzic (FW)
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