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Socceroos call in big guns

Leaps and bounds: Melbourne Heart's Aziz Behich in action.

Leaps and bounds: Melbourne Heart's Aziz Behich in action. Photo: Getty Images

HOLGER Osieck has breathed new life into the ageing Socceroos by calling up fresh faces alongside emerging talents and old established stars for Australia's clash with South Korea in a friendly in Hwaseong next week.

The most exciting names the German has included are Melbourne Heart's Aziz Behich, his former teammate Eli Babalj, who now plays for Red Star Belgrade in Serbia, and Central Coast Mariners attacking midfielder Tomas Rogic.

The challenge for Osieck now is to balance the demands of preparation for a must win World Cup qualifier in March against Oman with the need to experiment in a competitive match against serious opposition to see if the newcomers might have what it takes to progress to international level when points are at stake.

Other intriguing choices are Central Coast's goalkeeper Mathew Ryan, the former Adelaide United striker Mathew Leckie (now with second Bundesliga side FSV Frankfurt) and back from the wilderness defender Michael Thwaite, now at Perth Glory following the collapse of Gold Coast United.

Behich, Babalj and Rogic are receiving their first ever call ups while Ryan and Leckie have been involved in squads before.

So has Thwaite, the versatile defender who can play either as a centre back or on the flanks. He looked to have a huge international future when first capped in 2005, but never quite made the breakthrough.

Now as a mature 29-year-old his leadership qualities out on the field have been developed and his ability to play in so many positions gives him a real opportunity to take advantage of his second chance. With Lucas Neill now in the veteran stage, Sasa Ognenovski also ageing and Matt Spiranovic not convincing, Thwaite could stake a claim to be a contender in the final World Cup qualifiers, as he was when he first came into the squad in 2005.

Alongside them are players like Neill, Mark Schwarzer and Luke Wilkshire, the backbone of the national team for six years and more, as well as regulars like Archie Thompson and Carl Valeri, who could play his 50th game in the Korea match. Mark Bresciano has, however, been omitted, as has Tim Cahill.

Rogic has made a huge impression in a short time since coming to public attention after winning a Nike global competition to find talented players. His plans to join Premiership club Reading were frustrated by bureaucracy, so the teenager returned home to sign up with the Mariners.

He is only 19 and the world is at his feet, but Osieck yesterday made it clear he did not want too much pressure heaped on the young man. "He is a good boy, he has all the ingredients, but please don't destroy him," the coach said at a press conference in Sydney.

The call-ups for Behich and Babalj reflect well on Heart. The duo were among several young players blooded by former coach John Van 't Schip in his two years at the club. While Babalj, the gangling striker, is now in Serbia, Behich, who was converted into a left back by the Dutchman having spent the early years of his career as a striker or winger, is still a key man for the red and whites.

Yesterday he reflected on the role Van 't Schip — who offered him a lifeline with a deal in the run up to Heart's inaugural season when Behich had been discarded by Melbourne Victory — had played in his development.

"JVS was a big influence. He gave me a chance, handed me a contract and threw me out at left back in the derby game against Victory. That was the first time I had played there, but that's what a player wants, when the coach has confidence in him," Behich said.

3 comments

  • I have a feeling those young guns won't play, but are there simply to shut the media up.

    Even if Babalj plays, I can see Luke Wilkshire aiming for his head all game, even though Eli has great feet and can't header to save himself.

    Osieck is mediocre coach.

    You pay peanuts, you get monkeys...

    Commenter
    Agent Smith
    Date and time
    November 08, 2012, 9:31AM
    • Definitely good to see the likes of Rogic and Leckie get a run, if only in a friendly. Hopefully they step up over the next 18 months, we definitely need more youth coming through and succeeding for the NT in the lead up to 2014

      Commenter
      Danos
      Location
      City
      Date and time
      November 08, 2012, 10:46AM
      • Agree on your comments regarding Holger. I would also be surprised to see any of the youth get more then 10 minutes.

        Although i am starting to believe it could be the assistants (Arnold, Vidmar etc) who are advising on these poor selections. Thwaite? Really? With respect, he had his chance and has shown he is not up to international standard. Vidmar in my opinion showed his level of coaching ability at the under 19 world cup where the team finished goaless against average opposition.

        No Lowry, Davidson, Mooy, Langerak, Mcdonald, Porta?

        Another disappointing squad. What frustrates me about Holger is that if you refer to his comments when he was first appointed, he stated no one would be playing on reputation, yet we have players involved in sub standard middle eastern leagues walking into the team.

        Commenter
        Agent Smyth
        Date and time
        November 08, 2012, 11:04AM
        Comments are now closed

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