Caltex Socceroos squad: Defenders

Bert van Marwijk has confirmed his 23-man squad which will head to Russia for the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ and he’s gone with seven defensive options.

Mark Milligan’s shift from midfield to defence means he’s likely to compete with Trent Sainsbury and Matthew Jurman for the two central defensive positions.

It leaves two players fighting for each fullback spot, with Josh Risdon and Milos Degenek on the right, and Aziz Behich and James Meredith on the left.

Here’s a closer look at all seven defenders heading to Russia and the season’s they had with their respective clubs.

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MARK MILLIGAN (Al Ahli, Saudi Arabia)

Age: 32

Cap Number: 494

Previous clubs: Northern Spirit, Blacktown City, Sydney FC, Newcastle Jets, Shanghai Shenhua, JEF United, Melbourne Victory, Baniyas

The story of his season:

After starting the season in the Hyundai A-League with Melbourne Victory, Milligan earned a lucrative move to the Saudi Pro League with Al Ahli.

And his presence was felt immediately as the club went on an eight-game unbeaten run after his arrival, getting them to within a point of eventual champions Al Hilal.

Al Ahli also did well in the Cup competitions, reaching the semi-finals of the Saudi King of Cup Champions, while also reaching the knockout stages of the AFC Champions League.

It’s enabled Milligan to get plenty of minutes under his belt as he heads to his fourth FIFA World Cup™ tournament.

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TRENT SAINSBURY (Grasshopper Zurich, Switzerland)

Age: 26

Cap Number: 574

Previous clubs: Central Coast Mariners, PEC Zwolle Jiangsu Suning, Inter Milan

The story of his season:

Despite battling injury at various stages of the season, Sainsbury played a key role in the Caltex Socceroos coming through the play-offs to qualify for Russia.

After helping Australia get past Syria and Honduras, Sainsbury underwent groin surgery to rectify an issue he’d been battling through for seven months.

Late in the season he earned a loan move to Switzerland, playing the last nine games of the season for Grasshopper Zurich.

Not only did Sainsbury get handed the skipper’s armband after just four appearances, he also played predominantly in midfield, making 48 passes per 90 minutes while his 13 duels per 90 minutes (with 63% successful), showed the combative side to his game.

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MATTHEW JURMAN (Suwon Bluewings, Korea)

Age: 28

Cap Number: 591

Previous clubs: Sydney Olympic, Sydney FC, Brisbane Roar

The story of his season:

Like Sainsbury, Jurman has missed a big chunk of this season with injury, having minor knee surgery which ruled him out for six months.

But all that came after Jurman made his first four appearances in the green and gold in the home-and-away play-offs against Syria and Honduras.

Eventually getting back to full fitness, Jurman made five appearances in all competitions for the Bluewings to get some much-needed game-time under his belt ahead of Russia.

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JOSH RISDON (Western Sydney Wanderers, Australia)

Age: 25

Cap Number: 582

Previous clubs: Perth Glory

The story of his season:

With the Wanderers missing the Hyundai A-League Finals Series, Risdon’s club campaign ended in mid-April, meaning the friendly with the Czech Republic last week was just his seventh match in almost four months.

But he did enough throughout the campaign to stake his claim to be van Marwijk’s first-choice at right-back.

Risdon was prominent in a lot of the stats for his position in the Hyundai A-League, with only ex-Caltex Socceroo and Sydney FC star Luke Wilkshire (3.4 crosses per 90 versus Wilkshire’s 3.5 crosses per 90) getting into crossing positions more frequently.

He also had three assists for the season, while his 817 passes came at an accuracy rate of more than 72%.

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Josh Risdon


AZIZ BEHICH (Bursaspor, Turkey)

Age: 27

Cap Number: 547

Previous clubs: Green Gully, Melbourne Victory, Hume City, Melbourne Heart

The story of his season:

Behich has thrived laying regular football with a strong club like Bursaspor.

While it looked like they might get dragged into a relegation dogfight midway through the recent campaign, some impressive late results ensured they secured safety.

And Behich was a strong contributor right the way through, amassing five goals and two assists from left back or in a more advanced wing-back role.

Off the back of a consistent season – and his outing against the Czech’s, Behich looks to have the edge for the starting spot at left-back heading to Russia.

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MILOS DEGENEK (Yokohama F. Marinos, Japan)

Age: 24

Cap Number: 585

Previous clubs: Vfb Stuttgart II, 1860 Munich

The story of his season:

Working under former Caltex Socceroos boss Ange Postecoglou, Yokohama made a slow start to the J-League campaign.

But Degenek has been a constant feature for the side and has improved markedly as the season has progressed.

He even scored in back-to-back games before linking up with the Caltex Socceroos, including a powerful header in the 5-2 drubbing of V-Varen Nagasaki which propelled them up to 11th spot on the ladder.

While likely to compete with Risdon for a starting spot on the right-side of the back four, Degenek’s versatility means he could also play as a central defender at the FIFA World Cup™.

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Defender Milos Degenek enjoys a lighter moment.


JAMES MEREDITH (Millwall, England)

Age: 30

Cap Number: 581

Previous clubs: Derby County, Cambridge United, Chesterfield, Sligo Rovers, Shrwsbury Town, AFC Telford United, York City, Bradford City

The story of his season:

It’s been a breakout 2017/18 season for Meredith, who moved from League One outfit Bradford to newly-promoted Championship side Millwall.

And he quickly became a permanent fixture in Neil Harris’ starting XI, starting every single Championship game as the Lions went within a whisker of making the play-offs.

In all, Meredith clocking up over 4000 minutes on the park and was also towards the top of the Championship tackle charts, making 110 with more than half seeing him directly come away with possession of the ball.

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James Meredith