Overseas-based players dominate Australia’s squad for the opening games of the World Cup qualifiers next month, as coach Ange Postecoglou opted for experience with veteran Tim Cahill the only domestic A-League player selected.
Australia, the reigning Asian Cup champions, face Iraq in Perth on September 1 before taking on the UAE in Abu Dhabi on September 6 on their road to qualify for the 2018 Russia World Cup.
Postecoglou said he wanted the squad to hit the ground running, and focused on form and fitness when he selected the team. While the European and Chinese seasons — where most of the squad play — are ongoing, Australia’s A-League season kicks off in October.
“It’s very important, when we look at our games last year in September, October, whilst the performances were OK… it was really evident to us that in that sort of window, players who had come in underdone really struggled,” Postecoglou told reporters in Sydney.
“When we were coming up with this squad, we were probably only taking risks with maybe a couple of players, probably Timmy (Cahill) and Mark Milligan, who haven’t really played competitive football as yet… but they’ll be able to cope with what we do,” he said, adding that there were no uncapped players in the team.
Postecoglou said he was not worried about the fitness of Cahill, Australia’s top goalscorer, who has not played since he left Chinese Super League side Hangzhou Greentown last month.
“He hasn’t had that long off,” Postecoglou said of the 36-year-old, who signed for Melbourne City last week.
“He’s obviously not at match fitness, nowhere near it, but he’s getting himself in good shape and we’ll assess him over the next couple of weeks with his training at City and if he has sufficient enough fitness and feels good about it he’ll come in.”
Postecoglou said he expected the qualifying process to be tough but that he was comfortable with the squad’s preparations.
“It’s going to be a challenging qualifying process. Our first two opponents will be well-prepared. The UAE have been in Spain for a month playing games. Iraq are in camp as we speak,” he said.
“From our point of view, we’ve been preparing for 18 months, not just the last month or so, so we’re comfortable about where we’re at.”
Nathan Burns (FC Tokyo/JPN), Tim Cahill (Melbourne City/AUS), Milos Degenek (1860 Munchen/GER), Adam Federici (Bournemouth/ENG), Alex Gersbach (Rosenborg/NOR), Apostolos Giannou (Guangzhou R&F/CHN), Chris Ikonomidis (Lazio/ITA), Jackson Irvine (Burton Albion/ENG), Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace/ENG), Tomi Juric (FC Luzern/SUI), Robbie Kruse (Bayer Leverkusen/GER), Mitchell Langerak (Vfb Stuttgart/GER), Mathew Leckie (FC Ingolstadt/GER), Massimo Luongo (Queens Park Rangers/ENG), Ryan McGowan (Henan Jianye/CHN), Mark Milligan (Baniyas/UAE), Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield Town/ENG), Tommy Rogic (Celtic/SCO), Mathew Ryan (Valencia/ESP), Trent Sainsbury (Jiangsu Suning/CHN), Brad Smith (Bournemouth/ENG), Matthew Spiranovic (Hangzhou Greentown/CHN), Bailey Wright (Preston North End/ENG).
– Agence France-Presse