Socceroos Call Up Gives Players The Chance

Football Federation Australia (FFA) today announced an 18-man team that will be the first Socceroos squad to play in official Asian competition, following Australia’s admission to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on 1 January this year.

Football Federation Australia (FFA) today announced an 18-man team that will be the first Socceroos squad to play in official Asian competition, following Australia-s admission to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on 1 January this year.

The team to play away to Bahrain on 22 February in the first of six qualifying matches for the 2007 Asian Cup includes eight players from the Hyundai A-League, joining some of the Socceroos who were part of the team which defeated Uruguay in the World Cup play-offs in November last year, and some European-based players who are also being given a chance to display their credentials to the national coaches.

The national coaching staff of Guus Hiddink, Graham Arnold and Johan Neeskens were faced with the unavailability of a number of those who played against Uruguay, because the mid-week date clashes with European Champions League and UEFA Cup commitments for their Clubs, and because the date for this Asian Cup qualifier is not a date for which FIFA, the world governing body, applies its rules to force clubs to make players available for national team duty.

Thus players such as Mark Viduka, Mark Schwarzer, Scott Chipperfield, Harry Kewell, Jason Culina and Zeljko Kalac will be appearing for their clubs on the European stage that night. Other clubs have taken advantage of the absence of FIFA enforcement to decline FFA-s request to release their players - Brett Emerton, Lucas Neill, Tim Cahill, Marco Bresciano and Vince Grella.

Head Coach Guus Hiddink, himself unavailable because of prior contractual commitments with PSV Eindhoven who play Olympique Lyon in the UEFA Champions League that night, indicated he was excited to have the opportunity to test a number of players who are in the picture for selection for June-s World Cup and a more permanent place in the national team for the remaining Asian Cup matches in the second half of the year.

“Graham Arnold and Johan Neeskens have identified the strongest contenders from the Hyundai A-League and the three of us are excited with their potential. They will on the one hand have the chance to impress Johan and Graham for future consideration, and on the other, we are confident that we have a quality team to beat Bahrain, which is one of the strongest sides in Asia,” said Hiddink.

Arnold and Neeskens attended three Hyundai A-League matches on the weekend, and have spent countless hours viewing footage of earlier games, as well as performances of European-based players.

“I am thrilled that we have such a strong team, even without some of the boys who are tied up with European commitments.” said Arnold.

“Several of these players have been very close to earlier selection and now their time has come, and with Guus having made it clear that the team for the World Cup in Germany is in no way settled and sealed off, we are setting the scene for a very competitive selection for June, if players step up in the Bahrain match.

“Make no mistakes, Bahrain is on form the hardest team we will meet in the Asian Cup qualifiers, having narrowly missed World Cup qualification in the play-off against Trinidad and Tobago, and we are impressed with what we have seen in the extensive footage we have of their recent matches. It will take a team as strong as the one we have selected to test them to the full when they are playing at home.”

Players new to the national squad are Scott McDonald (Motherwell FC, Scotland), Brett Holman (Excelsior, Holland), Spase Dilevski (Queensland Roar), David Carney (Sydney FC), Nick Ward (Perth Glory) and Michael Valkanis (Adelaide United). Michael Beauchamp (Central Coast Mariners) has been included in recent camps for the Socceroos, but has now the chance to win his first cap. They will join seasoned campaigners and part of the team which won the play-off against Uruguay - Josip Skoko, Tony Vidmar, Luke Wilkshire, Ante Covic, Michael Thwaite and Ahmad Elrich.

Alvin Ceccoli (pictured above - Sydney FC) has won a recall to the national team following consistent and impressive performances during the Hyundai A-League this year, having first appeared in the green and gold in 1998.

Spase Dilevski has been a member of the Qantas Young Socceroos and of the 2004 Olympic Team, whilst Nick Ward has been a fast developer since being in Ange Postecoglou-s Qantas Young Socceroos just last year at the World Youth Championships. Scott McDonald was a member of the Joeys who made the final of the Under 17 World Cup in 1999, and has consistently scored goals for Motherwell in the Scottish Premier League over the last two years. He was also captain of the Young Socceroos in 2003. Brett Holman was part of the 2004 Olympic team.

The AFC Asian Cup finals in July of 2007 will feature the top 16 nations emerging from this years qualifiers, which consist of 6 groups of 4 nations playing home and away matches throughout the year. Australia have drawn Bahrain, Kuwait and Lebanon, and must finish in the top two of the group to proceed to the prestigious finals.

The AFC Asian Cup 2007 will be jointly hosted by Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Hyundai A-League players who are still involved in the finals series will be able to play in their semi-finals matches on the weekend of 17-19 February, and then join the national team in Bahrain on Monday 20 February. They will be back with their Hyundai A-League teams on the Friday before the Preliminary Final scheduled for Sunday evening, 26 February.

FFA-s Head of High Performance, John Boultbee said that the Hyundai A-League coaches had been consulted during the selection process and had given their unconditional support for their players- elevation to the national team.

“All the coaches were excited for their players and very relaxed about the days they will miss from training for the finals,” said Boultbee.

“ This excellent cooperation is going to be very important in the future when there will be calls on Hyundai A-League players for national team duty in other Asian Cup qualifiers, Olympic qualifiers, and World Cup qualifiers over the next four years, most of which are on mid-week dates like this one.”


Michael Beauchamp (Central Coast Mariners, Australia), Alex Brosque (Queensland Roar, Australia), David Carney (Sydney FC, Australia), Alvin Ceccoli (Sydney FC, Australia), Ante Covic (Hammarby, Sweden), Spase Dilevski (Queensland Roar, Australia), Ahmad Elrich (Fulham, England), Brett Holman (Excelsior, Holland), Jon McKain (Timosoara Politechnica, Romania), Scott McDonald (Motherwell, Scotland), Jade North (Newcastle Jets, Australia), Michael Petkovic (Sivasspor, Turkey), Josip Skoko (Stoke, England), Michael Thwaite (FC National, Romania), Michael Valkanis (Adelaide United, Australia), Tony Vidmar (NAC Breda, Holland), Nick Ward (Perth Glory, Australia), Luke Wilkshire (Bristol City, England)