Thu, May 15, 2014 - Page 18 News List

Australia minder Postecoglou chooses youthful preliminary World Cup squad

Reuters, SYDNEY

Australia soccer coach Ange Postecoglou, center, and players Mark Milligan, left, and Ivan Franjic pose near the Sydney Opera House yesterday. Milligan and Franjic were named in the preliminary squad for the World Cup yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

Australia coach Ange Postecoglou was true to his word and yesterday picked a youthful 30-man Socceroos preliminary squad for the World Cup finals in Brazil.

Postecoglou took over from German Holger Osieck just six months ago and had promised to ease out Australia’s aging “golden generation” in favor of younger players.

He has selected a provisional party with an average age of 25 for the June 12 to July 13 tournament, where Australia have been drawn with world champions Spain, as well as the Netherlands and Chile.

The squad is littered with players in their early 20s, with two uncapped contenders for a ticket to South America in forward Ben Halloran and fellow 21-year-old Bailey Wright, a central defender.

Halloran has been in prolific form for Fortuna Duesseldorf in the German second tier, while Wright will be hoping to help Preston North End to promotion to England’s second flight before joining the squad.

Other mild surprises were the inclusion of A-League goalkeepers Eugene Galekovic and Mark Birighitti ahead of Liverpool reserve Brad Jones.

Midfielder James Troisi, who has been on loan at Melbourne Victory from Atalanta BC, Swindon midfielder Massimo Luongo and Adam Taggart, who scored 16 goals for the Newcastle Jets last season, have also been rewarded for their form.

“The majority of them have had strong seasons this year, and I guess for a lot of them, hopefully, they have a similar fire in their belly to myself in wanting to prove themselves,” Postecoglou told a news conference in Sydney. “I had some specific criteria — form, fitness and an eye for the future — and I think this squad reflects that.”

Bayer 04 Leverkusen forward Robbie Kruse (knee), Middlesbrough’s Rhys Williams (Achilles) and his fellow defender Trent Sainsbury (knee) were all ruled out by injury.

Experienced campaigners such as goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, former captain Lucas Neill, midfielder Brett Holman and forward Harry Kewell have either jumped or been pushed into international retirement since Postecoglou took over.

“We needed to change the direction of our national team. This wasn’t going to be an adjustment, this was a meaningful change and we needed to regenerate the team,” Postecoglou said. “There was no doubt in my mind that we needed to make some meaningful change in the players we selected and, at the same time, understand that it’s a World Cup.”

The players are to gather in Gosford, just north of Sydney, for a training camp this week, and three players are to be cut after a friendly against South Africa set for May 26.

There was reassurance about the fitness of Mile Jedinak, who is the leading candidate to captain the side, but suffered a groin injury in his final match of the season for Crystal Palace last weekend.

“He won’t be out for more than two or three weeks,” said Postecoglou, who is set to name his final 23-man squad on June 2. “We were going to give him time off anyway and he’ll be in Gosford on Sunday.”

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