Socceroos surprise: Wilkshire out of World Cup squad
It was inevitable that injured Tom Rogic and Josh Kennedy were cut from the final 23 but the surprise came with the removal of veteran Socceroos player Luke Wilkshire, says Michael Lynch from Vitoria, Brazil.PT2M26S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-39i1c 620 349 June 4, 2014
Socceroo veteran Josh Kennedy and promising young midfielder Tom Rogic have lost their battle with ongoing injury problems and been axed from the squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil as coach Ange Postecoglou listened to the dictates of prudence and pragmatism rather than imagination and sentiment.
Young goalkeeper Mark Birighitti and another Socceroo veteran (like Kennedy) of the 2006 and 2010 World Cup campaigns, Luke Wilkshire, are the other two players left out.
His last bow: Tom Rogic in action during a practice match on Monday. A day later he was cut from the squad. Photo: Getty Images
Postecoglou has had to make the toughest call of his short international coaching career in deciding who to leave out of the final 23-man party. He has opted for to look to the future rather than concern himself with idealism and sentiment, especially in the case of Rogic, who many believe to be the most promising player of his generation.
The fact that Rogic has been suffering from long running problems for months - he is often reported to be battling osteitis pubis, but this has never been officially confirmed as the cause of his difficulties - makes Rogic's withdrawal a matter of regret rather than surprise.
The 21-year-old started in the practice match against Clube Parana on Monday but put in a lacklustre performance, suffered another knock and was withdrawn at half-time. The writing looked to be on the wall for him then.
Omitted: Josh Kennedy. Photo: Getty Images
Kennedy's departure is more of a shock. The gangling striker was hoping to play in his third World Cup, and had been responsible for Australia's qualification when he headed the decisive goal in that 1-0 triumph over Iraq in Sydney last June.
But for several years he has had to battle against ongoing back problems which have restricted his ability to travel to games and play. He took part in a training game on Sunday, and was expected to play against Clube Parana on Monday, but when the line-ups were released he was not even on the bench.
Young striker Adam Taggart came in in his stead and took his chance, scoring the second goal in a 2-0 win.
Taggart is the main beneficiary of Kennedy's misfortune, while youngster Massimo Luongo will reap an opportunity he might not have expected as the result of Rogic's departure. Luongo, who spent several seasons at Tottenham in his youth but now plays for Swindon Town in England's third tier, looked comfortable in the heart of midfield in Australia's second string eleven which took on the Brazilian club side on Monday.
Assistant coach Tony Vidmar tried to dampen all the speculation on Monday after that match, suggesting that Rogic was a crucial player for the team and that Kennedy could get over his issues on a managed program, but he was at pains to point out that no final decisions would be made until the medical staff had given their verdict at a meeting on Monday night.
There can be little doubt that Postecoglou has made the right call in the case of Kennedy and Rogic.
The World Cup is the ultimate test and no-one whose fitness is in any serious doubt can realistically expect to make much of an impact. Postecoglou is building for the future, so it is better that the likes of Taggart and Luongo, two players who are likely to play significant roles in the years to come, are given the opportunity to benefit from this experience.
Similarly, Birighitti is a bright prospect for later tournaments, but at this point in his development his inclusion in the 27-man party was always more about gaining experience than playing.
For Rogic, it brings to an end an unsatisfactory year. Since his move to Glasgow Celtic his progress has stalled due to a lack of game-time and injury enforced absences. He has hardly set the A-League alight in his appearances for Melbourne Victory, and while he is not responsible for the hype around him, it is to be hoped that he can try and rebuild his career amid lower expectations.
For Wilkshire, the axing will be a disappointment but perhaps not a total surprise. Although vastly experienced, the Russia-based utility has not figured much in Postecoglou's plans since the new coach replaced Holger Osieck last November. At his age (32) his international future is largely behind him, so once more the coach has made a choice with the future very much in mind.
Oliver BOZANIC, Mark BRESCIANO, Tim CAHILL, Jason DAVIDSON, Ivan FRANJIC, Eugene GALEKOVIC, Ben HALLORAN, James HOLLAND, Mile JEDINAK, Mitch LANGERAK, Mathew LECKIE, Massimo LUONGO, Ryan McGOWAN, Matt McKAY, Mark MILLIGAN, Tommy OAR, Matt RYAN, Matthew SPIRANOVIC, Adam TAGGART, James TROISI, Dario VIDOSIC, Alex WILKINSON, Bailey WRIGHT