So the squad has been announced, the shocks have occurred and it’s now down to business for the 23 remaining Socceroos. The biggest surprise was the exclusion of Rhys Williams from the squad, while the cutting of Tommy Oar, James Holland, Eugene Galekovic and Shane Lowry were all fairly self-explanatory.
Williams’ absence from the final squad has led to a war of word between Pim Verbeek and Middlesbrough manager Gordon Strachan. Verbeek has claimed that his decision to exclude Williams was based on his pelvic injury, which he claims Strachan only made worse in the final few weeks of the season. Strachan however has angrily hit back, claiming that he never put Williams under pressure to play. You can read the full war of words here and here.
But in more important news, the squad!
Goalkeepers: Adam Federici, Brad Jones, Mark Schwarzer
No surprises here. Galekovic was only ever in the squad as a back-up, and I doubt he will have had any realistic expectations of making the final squad barring any injuries. In terms of the pecking order, Schwarzer is obviously the undisputed number one. Federici and Jones will then fight it out for the spot on the bench, and I would think that Fed will win, due to his good season at club-level this year.
Defenders: Michael Beauchamp, David Carney, Scott Chipperfield, Mark Milligan, Craig Moore, Lucas Neill, Luke Wilkshire
Defence is the area that came under most scrutiny from Pim’s knife, with three defenders (Lowry, Williams and North) all missing out on the final 23. While I feel that the decision to cut Williams is harsh, if Verbeek’s claims of medical issues are true, the decision is probably justified. Sadly, Craig Moore and Lucas Neill will probably be starting together, with Wilkshire on the right and either Chipperfield or Carney on the left. While we will miss the versatility of Williams, Beauchamp and Milligan will hopefully hold us in good stead.
Midfielders: Mark Bresciano, Tim Cahill, Jason Culina, Brett Emerton, Richard Garcia, Vincenzo Grella, Brett Holman, Mile Jedinak, Carl Valeri, Dario Vidosic
In the midfield, Verbeek has gone for a mix of attacking flair and defensive skill that will fit well into his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation. No major surprises are found in the midfield, with Grella and Culina most likely to be the holding two, while Jedinak and Valeri (dinho) will be their replacements.
Further up the park, Emerton and Garcia and Holman offer hard-working options, while Cahill and Bresciano (and Kewell, who has been classed by many as a forward) offer more attacking spark. Vidosic is a slight surprise, but has appeared solid so-far and can play as an attacking-midfielder or up front, giving Verbeek slightly more attacking strength (if he chooses to use it...).
Forwards: Joshua Kennedy, Harry Kewell, Nikita Rukavytsya
And finally up-front for the Socceroos we have Josh ‘Jesus’ Kennedy (he really needs to play a game with Danny Invincible, imagine having Jesus and Mr Invincible on the same team!) While Kennedy will probably be the main man in South Africa, it would be remiss of me to ignore Rukavytsya, who may play a hugely important role coming off the bench to make an impact if we’re struggling for a goal.
Finally, Harry Kewell will play a pivotal role for the Socceroos, most likely on the wing or as a supporting striker up-front. Although currently struggling with injury, Kewell, along with Cahill, Neill and Schwarzer will most likely be the deciding factors in Australia’s success, or failure, at South Africa 2010.
In other Socceroos news, I believe Nikita Rukavytsya has had his contract at FC Twente terminated. While much Dutch isn’t great, I believe that is what this says. It is confirmed by Tribal Football, although I’m not sure if you can really say that anything on Tribal Football is confirmed... While I’m sure Ruka will be disappointed by the news, he now has the World Cup to prove himself to potential suitors and hopefully get a new contract at a good-sized club where he will actually start playing regularly.
So what do you think of the squad? Let us know!
In other news, I today conducted an interview with Nathan Coe which will hopefully feature in either Soccer International or Goal Weekly sometime soon. So look out for that, and if you have not already, make sure you pick up this month’s Soccer International and let me know what you think of my feature article on Young Socceroo Ryan McGowan (more info here).