'Five needs to fit into three': Van Marwijk's biggest selection headaches

Bert van Marwijk can explore his full attacking arsenal for the first time this weekend when Australia visit Hungary in a pre-FIFA World Cup™ friendly.

The Caltex Socceroos boss has decisions to make after unexpectedly ushering Jamie Maclaren into his final 23-man squad for the fast-approaching tournament.

First comes a trip to the Groupama Arena in Budapest, where four striking options will be battling for one spot following the return to fitness of Tomi Juric.

"I’m good, I’m good," Juric confirmed to socceroos.com.au  "Obviously it’s not the way I wanted to come into camp and start off the preparations.

"Sometimes you have to play with the cards you’re dealt. I’ve made the best of it and now I’m just preparing as best as possible to get ready for the first game."

An array of attributes are now on offer in the front third and, as we ponder in our pre-match talking points, there are similar subplots all over the pitch.

With the Sunday morning kick-off (1:30am AEST, live on Fox Sports and Network Ten) to come less than seven days out from the France clash, this final hit-out could provide answers to the questions looming largest.

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READ: Everything you need to know about Hungary


With the surprise inclusion of Maclaren in his final 23, van Marwijk has given himself "several types" of centre-forward options.

Could the poacher now sneak past his positional rivals into a better position in the queue?

READ: Maclaren revels in World Cup selection

READ: 'I think I need him' - Van Marwijk explains Maclaren inclusion

He'll find it tough to leapfrog Andrew Nabbout, whose pace, power and fine finish in the 4-0 win over the Czech Republic look to have made him the frontrunner for a start against France.

But with the former Newcastle Jets forward having passed his audition to lead the line, a fit-again Juric could come back into calculations as a clear point of difference looking regather some scoring form.

Van Marwijk may use this match to bed down his final plans including a template for in-game changes, where supersub Tim Cahill is most likely to figure. The coach has already hinted that Cahill could be set to earn minutes against Hungary to make sure he's firing come the test of France.

Tomi Juric
Juric remains the truest number nine in the squad.


Deciding on a starting striker will be difficult, but determining the men who will supply the ammunition is proving a similarly welcome problem.

Van Marwijk is effectively attempting to fit five genuine contenders into a starting three comprised of an attacking midfielder and two holders.

SQUAD BREAKDOWN: How 23 players will battle for XI roles

Tom Rogic, Aaron Mooy and Massimo Luongo performed those roles to fine effect in part one of the two-match warm-up schedule.

Mile Jedinak has since had a chance to freshen up after a long club season, while Jackson Irvine's physical presence and scoring potential makes him a compelling candidate for either job.

Whether either of those two start against Hungary, and in which roles, could prove insightful as to which way the coach is leaning.

Mile Jedinak
Mile is back in the mix.


Essential to Australia's ultimately straightforward win over the Czech Republic was the ability to absorb early pressure without conceding. Will they afford the opposition to make the early running on this occasion?

READ: Van Marwijk's assessment after big Caltex Socceroos win

Though Hungary are at home, they failed to qualify for Russia and are ranked nine places lower than the Caltex Socceroos.

It will be fascinating to see whether caution is again applied in view of the upcoming France challenge or, as may be required against Denmark and Peru, the intention becomes to dictate terms from the outset against a less-fancied opponent.

Caltex Socceroos celebrate
Australia got on top in the second half last week.


Where the legendary Cahill has long been the go-to scorer, this FIFA World Cup campaign could be all about finding new avenues to goal.

The expected plan for quick breaks and width in attack is geared heavily in favour of Mathew Leckie's raw speed and the winger showed how effective he can be with last week's brace.

Adding another against Hungary would instil crucial confidence in a player who at times has struggled to fully deliver on the tools on his locker.

Encouragingly, his second against the Czech Republic was the sign of a player who appears comfortable with the increasing expectation, darting into the box and showing a single-mindedness to score inside the near post off his unfavoured left. 

Mathew Leckie
Leckie starred last week.


The meeting with Hungary shapes as the last opportunity for van Marwijk to get a first look at two of his players in match action.

Defenders Matthew Jurman and James Meredith will both be hoping for a chance to impress after thus far going unused under the Dutchman.

Injury prevented Jurman from taking part in the March friendlies and Mark Milligan was preferred alongside Trent Sainsbury in the centre of defence last Friday.

Getting miles into the legs will perhaps be more precious for the 28-year-old given his interrupted start to the season in Korea has restricted him to five club appearances since late April.

Meredith, meanwhile, is yet to dislodge incumbent left-back Aziz Behich, but he should be prepared for whenever an opportunity arises after starting each one of Millwall's 46 league matches this term.

Matthew Jurman
Will Jurman win his fifth cap on Sunday morning?