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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.

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Vitoria: When the time came to make the ultimate choice it was, in the end, inevitable that Tom Rogic, the injury-plagued midfielder, and Josh Kennedy, the striker with the perennial back problem, would miss the cut and be left out of Australia's final 23 for the World Cup.

Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou said that he had given the pair right up to the last moment to prove their fitness for the tournament, but by the time the decision had to be made the duo's bodies had made the call for him.

Left out: Luke Wilkshire.

Left out: Luke Wilkshire. Photo: AFP

Mark Birighitti, the young goalkeeper, was always likely to be left out, but the surprising member of the doomed quartet was Luke Wilkshire. The Socceroos veteran, a member of the starting XI in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, was the final name to be published on the list, and his selection surprised because it seemingly left the coach with no cover for Ivan Franjic at right back.

His omission was, Postecoglou seemed to be suggesting, because somebody had to go and he was the unlucky one who missed the cut.

''We are assessing everyone as we went along ....we wanted a certain number of players in midfield and up front. We are going to have to need some variations, but in the end he was the unlucky one who missed out,'' was Postecoglou's verdict on Wilkshire's relegation from the squad.

Josh Kennedy: struggling with a back injury.

Josh Kennedy: struggling with a back injury. Photo: Getty Images

Rogic played against Brazilian second-tier team Club Parana on Monday but took a knock and made little impression before being substituted at half time. The writing was on the wall from that point on.

''Tommy, we wanted to give him every chance, he was struggling coming into camp. We thought we could make some progress with him...he worked pretty hard, but obviously yesterday was a bit of a test for him to see if we could build him up, but I think he knew after the first minute [of that game] that he just wasn't right. 

''Josh was just a timing thing, he was due to play yesterday and we were quite happy with the way he was going but he pulled up sore with his back, and with the timing of it, there was just too much uncertainty.''

Off the pace: Tom Rogic struggled in Australia's warm-up win.

Off the pace: Tom Rogic struggled in Australia's warm-up win. Photo: Getty Images

The big beneficiaries from their misfortune are players like Massimo Luongo, the Swindon Town midfielder, and Adam Taggart, the Newcastle Jets striker who played in Kennedy's stead on Monday and scored Australia's second goal in a 2-0 win.

The Australian squad's average age is around 26, so it contains a good blend of youth to go with some seasoned veterans. But it is lacking in broader experience. Only Mark Bresciano and Tim Cahill have started in World Cup games (captain Mile Jedinak came off the bench a quarter of an hour from the end of Australia's 4-0 loss to Germany in Durban, his only World Cup appearance), while 14 of the party of 10 or less caps.

Only Jedinak plays in the Premier League in England, while seven of the squad are in the A-League. The remainder are scattered all over the world, illustrating the breadth of the Australian soccer diaspora, with some in Asia (China and South Korea), the USA, the Middle East (Qatar) and Europe (Belgium, Netherlands, Austria and Germany).

Postecoglou acknowledges the challenges such rawness brings, especially in defence,  but is unapologetic for having swept away the old guard, of which only Bresciano and Cahill remain.

''We are light on across the whole back four, but we are pretty happy with the ones we have got there and there are some variations we can play at right back or left back if needed. Looking at the make-up of our squad there are other areas of the park where we are going to need more."

THE SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Mat Ryan (Club Brugge), Mitchell Langerak (Borussia Dortmund), Eugene Galekovic (Adelaide United).
Defenders: Ivan Franjic (Brisbane Roar), Jason Davidson (Heracles Almelo), Matthew Spiranovic (Western Sydney Wanderers), Bailey Wright (Preston North End), Alex Wilkinson (Jeonbuk Motors), Ryan McGowan (Shandong Luneng)
Midfielders: Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace), Mark Milligan (Melbourne Victory), James Holland (Austria Vienna), Massimo Luongo (Swindon Town), Oliver Bozanic (Luzern), Matt McKay (Brisbane Roar), Mark Bresciano (Al-Gharafa)
Forwards: Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls), Dario Vidosic (Sion), Tommy Oar (FC Utrecht), James Troisi (Melbourne Victory), Ben Halloran (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Adam Taggart (Newcastle Jets), Mathew Leckie (FSV Frankfurt).