Why the same faces, Holger?

by Ben Somerford on Aug 30, 2012

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After the Scotland loss earlier this month Holger Osieck hinted at changes, so Wednesday's Socceroos squad announcement came across as rather underwhelming. For the fans, it was the same old names; Thompson, Carney, North, when they were promised new faces.

Actually, Wednesday was a bit of an odd day all round. The squad announcement was set for 11.30am only to be delayed more than five hours without any specific reason being given.

Perhaps it was Rhys Williams or Carl Valeri's new injury woes, or something to do with the rumours on Osieck and Chris Herd's fractured relationship, having had a scouting team at Aston Villa's game on Tuesday. Anyway, that's all huff-and-puff speculation and we shouldn't get into that.

Whatever the case, it's worth remembering this is a 22-man squad for a pretty important 2014 World Cup qualifier for a Australia. And it's a tricky fixture too, journeying to the unfamiliar Amman to take on Lebanon, who the Socceroos have never faced before at senior level.

Jordan are no mugs either, despite their 6-0 walloping at the hands of Japan earlier in final round qualifying, and we shouldn't forget they made the quarter-finals of the 2011 Asian Cup in Qatar, when they were seconds away from a famous 1-0 group stage victory over the Samurai Blue before Maya Yoshida's 92nd minute equaliser.

The point I'm trying to make is Al Nashama, in familiar conditions for them, will test the Socceroos who have only two points from two games so far. Now isn't the time for major experimentation for Osieck and this squad clearly says that in volumes.

However, that won't prevent the German mentor from earning plenty of criticism, particularly given his post-Scotland comments about changes and how he appears to have gone back on them.

The players who actually took to the field for significant minutes at Easter Road but have been excluded for this squad are Scott McDonald, Carl Valeri and Rhys Williams, although the latter two have missed out due to injuries sustained in midweek.

In my blog following the Scotland game a fortnight ago, I singled out Sasa Ognenovski, David Carney, McDonald and Mile Jedinak as players who may have put their spots in the side in jeopardy with their performances.

It appears, I was 75 per cent wrong though as Ognenovski, Carney and Jedinak are there again. Osieck said at Wednesday's teleconference in hindsight he had forgiven those players for their performance against Scotland given it came in club pre-season when most were rusty.

Archie Thompson's spot in the squad will also generate plenty of debate too, with plenty of fans unconvinced by his continued inclusion.

However, the positive news was the return of Matt McKay, Tim Cahill and Nikita Rukavytsya. The former two are likely to start in the qualifier, while Rukavytsya adds a different attacking dimension, that on the evidence against Scotland, the Socceroos need.

Cahill's inclusion is a big boost for Australia and we mustn't forget his resurgent performance against Japan in June and the positive vibes he'd be getting out of some good form at New York after a difficult final 12 months at Everton.

And with the clubless Harry Kewell, the under-rated Brett Emerton and ever-injured Joshua Kennedy absent again, Cahill's quality and experience will be important for Australia's attacking line.

The recall of Matthew Spiranovic is an interesting one too, which could lead to Ognenovski dropping out of the starting XI. Those two have battled for a long time to be Lucas Neill's central defensive partner.

Lately neither has done themselves any favours, Ognenovski performing poorly against Scotland (I believe he's worth another chance though) and 24-year-old Spiranovic making the move to the relatively weak Qatari Stars League (which reportedly left Osieck less than impressed given Spira's age).

As for those who've been overlooked, youngsters such as Mathew Leckie or Luke DeVere have had untimely injuries rule them out.

James Troisi is an interesting absentee too, given he made his Serie A debut on the weekend but maybe Osieck wants him to firm up his place at new club Atalanta with a view to the long term.

Indeed, this is a squad full of compromise for Osieck, with the German probably beginning to realise the Australian talent pool isn't that large. He's resorted to the same-old faces and if that doesn't work, some new questions from supporters will begin to surface.