Culina Gets First National Team Call Up

Socceroos coach Frank Farina has drafted Dutch-based striker Jason Culina into the national team for the first time, in what is essentially a full strength squad for the match against South Africa next month.

Socceroos coach Frank Farina has drafted Dutch-based striker Jason Culina into the national team for the first time, in what is essentially a full strength squad for the match against South Africa next month.

Culina, capped at Under 17, 20 and 23 levels, earned his call up with some outstanding form for his club FC Twente Enschede, where he has scored 11 goals in all competitions. He did his chances no harm last weekend, when in front of Farina, he scored one, set up another and was his side-s best player in a 3-0 win.

The former Sydney United and Sydney Olympic star, is the only newcomer in the 20-man squad, while Paul Agostino gets a recall, after a year away from the national team.

The full squad is: Mark Schwarzer, Zeljko Kalac, Lucas Neill, Kevin Muscat, Craig Moore, Tony Popovic, Stephen Laybutt, Tony Vidmar, Jon McKain, Danny Tiatto, Vince Grella, Josip Skoko, Brett Emerton, Tim Cahill, Marco Bresciano, Mile Sterjovski, Scott Chipperfield, Jason Culina, Paul Agostino, Max Vieri

“Jason-s performed well,” said Farina, when asked about his inclusion.

“He had virtually four years in exile at Ajax without playing any first team football. He-s made a good move to FC Twente; he-s playing regularly and playing well; he-s arguably one of their best players and he has earned his shot.

“People make their own opportunities and open doors for themselves and that-s what Jason has done here.”

“I suppose it was a great learning curve being at Ajax, but three or four years is quite a lot of time not to be playing regular first team football. By him now playing regularly he has earned his shot and I am looking forward to getting Jason into camp and seeing how he works with the other players.”

Asked whether this game was the last chance for players that have not featured in the national team setup before to be part of the squad for the rest of the year, Farina was not ruling anyone out of the frame.

“Not if something super special comes along,” Farina quipped. “Most probably that-s exactly how it will work out.

“We-ve got these two (confirmed) games prior to what I would regard as the big preparation, which is the Confederations Cup, although we are possibly looking at three or four games. So there is still a number of games to go prior till, what I would say, is the beginning of the last three or four months.

Agostino, who scored last weekend for his German club side 1860 Munich, has a real chance to press his claims for future matches, after a year in the wilderness, although Farina says injuries kept his appearances down for the national team last year.

“Venezuela I think was his last game and he scored over there if you remember and we probably should have won that game. He did quite well.

“Paul has always been on the fringe for the last 12-18 months and he was included in the squad for the Turkey and Adelaide tournament, but injury ruled him out of those, so it-s not as if he has been completely overlooked.

“Unfortunately injuries have curtailed his appearances over the last 18 months. He-s playing and doing well and he is another one who I have never been let down by. Every time he has come in he has done well for us.”

One player not part of the 20, but who is back playing for his club, John Aloisi, is only a standby player for this game.

“I had a long conversation with John and he has been through a really tough period, especially since the Solomon Islands. I have been down the path before using example of Stan Lazaridis, Vince Grella where players have come off the back of long term injuries, long periods of difficulty, calling them into squads where they have to travel, and in every situation we have done that, the player has broken down.

“I spoke to John and he has had a really difficult time; he-s just gotten back into the first team after injury and even though he has played in recent weeks, I don-t think it-s in our interests to be risking these players at what is an important stage, ten months out from the most important games the national team will face. I would put Kewell, Viduka and Lazaridis in the same situation.”

Farina also confirmed that he had a very positive meeting with Ned Zelic, but while not considered for this game, he could come into the frame in matches later on. Zelic has been in national team exile since the start of Farina-s reign as national coach, after walking away following him being named on the bench for the second match against Brazil in 1999.

So what is Farina expecting from the opposition when they play in less than two weeks time.

“I would be very happy to come away with a result to be honest.

“It-s going to be a full house apparently. You know they are a very good team, as they proved when we beat them in London, so I think it will be all hands on deck and if we can get a result over there, in those circumstances, I will be pleased.

“It-s going to be a tough game, as they are a good side and preparing for their World Cup qualifying match, so it will be difficult.”