Call-up: Chris Herd in action for EPL side Aston Villa. Photo: Drew HallowellThe first step in the Socceroos’ rejuvenation process has begun with Ange Postecoglou naming a young and experimental squad for the friendly against Ecuador in London.
Captain Lucas Neill is the most notable name missing from the squad list as Postecoglou opted for youth over experience. Neill, 35, was overlooked because of a lack of match preparation but remains a chance to make the World Cup squad after signing for English Championship club Watford. Tim Cahill is the most likely to wear the captain’s armband as he is the most senior player in a 23-man roster that includes four uncapped players and 10 others with less than 10 international appearances.
Curtis Good, Chris Herd, Ben Halloran and Massimo Luongo could make their international debuts on March 5 at The Den with the Socceroos coach using his final friendly game before announcing his extended World Cup squad as his last chance to trial fringe players.
It is a squad for the future favouring youth, mobility and those playing regularly. While there is a lack of competitive international experience in the squad, Postecoglou says those selected have the chance of becoming stalwarts in the national team for years to come.
”The squad to face Ecuador represents the first steps in what I believe is the building of the next golden generation for Australian football, acknowledging there is a need to balance experimentation and experience to achieve this,” he said. ”The Ecuador match gives this group of players an opportunity to stake a claim for the World Cup. They have been rewarded for playing consistent and strong football and shows that age and limited international experience are not barriers to opportunity.”
The composition of the squad provides an insight into the style expected from Postecoglou with no out-and-out centre forward. Matthew Leckie is the closest to a regular striker with attacking midfielders Cahill, Halloran and Dario Vidosic also entrusted to find the back of the net. Josh Kennedy was overlooked because of the start of the J-League this weekend, though Postecoglou hinted his preference lies towards a system with more mobile forwards than one striker.
”I think anyone who watches my teams play, I don’t just rely on one player to score goals or a player to play a certain position, and I think the squad we’ve selected and the squads we will select will reflect that moving forward,” Postecoglou said. ”What we’re looking for is goals and players like Matt Leckie and Timmy Cahill are certainly players that can score goals, and they’re included in this squad and we’re expecting other players to fill that breach as well.”
The absence of Neill and the long-term injury to Rhys Williams lead to a different look in the Socceroos’ back line with Western Sydney Wanderers defender Matthew Spiranovic earning a recall alongside Luke Wilkshire, who was overlooked for the last match against Costa Rica. Herd and Good will compete with Spiranovic and Dylan McGowan for places in the heart of defence while Brisbane Roar’s Ivan Franjic and Holland-based Jason Davidson occupy the wide positions.
Luongo, 21, is the biggest surprise in Postecoglou’s squad, having not been a regular in youth national teams though he has enjoyed a breakout season at English League One club Swindon.
The new Socceroos
Massimo Luongo: The former APIA Leichhardt junior has had a breakout year with Swindon in League One where he has made 40 first-team appearances in all competitions, including 31 in the league.
Chris Herd: The Aston Villa man has been on the fringe of his club’s senior squad and his appearances in the Premier League have been limited to just two this season, largely due to injuries.
Ben Halloran: It took some time to adjust to the demands of Europe but after serving time in the reserves of Fortuna Dusseldorf, the ex-Brisbane Roar winger established himself as a first-team player in the second tier of German football.
Curtis Good: He moved to Scottish Premier League club Dundee United in January from Newcastle United in order to gain more game time and made his debut 24 hours after signing. Dominant in the air and strong on the ground.
Squad: Oliver Bozanic, Tim Cahill, Jason Davidson, Ivan Franjic, Curtis Good, Ben Halloran, Chris Herd, James Holland, Mile Jedinak, Brad Jones, Mitchell Langerak, Matthew Leckie, Massimo Luongo, Ryan McGowan, Matthew McKay, Mark Milligan, Tommy Oar, Tom Rogic, Matt Ryan, Adam Sarota, Matthew Spiranovic, Dario Vidosic, Luke Wilkshire.