Forgotten man Maclaren's World Cup now at risk

by Sebastian Hassett on Dec 12, 2017

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Torsten Frings was one of the meanest, toughest players of his era. So if we're hoping he'll do the right thing by Australian football, forget it.

Why does Frings - a 79-cap veteran of the German national team - matter so much all of a sudden? Frings is the coach of SV Darmstadt, where Jamie Maclaren is playing.

Actually, we use the term "playing" loosely. In the second division of German football, Maclaren has chalked up just 125 minutes of game time this season. He's not even seen much cup action, adding another 22 minutes.

There is no escaping the bottom line that this is a dreadful statistic.

Doubly so in a World Cup year.

Yet it comes on the back of one of the most compelling statistics seen in the A-League for years: 40 goals in two seasons.

Maclaren's poaching ability is exceptional and while his lack of height means he may not look like a typical striker, he is probably the nation's most natural finisher. Added to a fantastic change of direction and a terrific burst of pace, it's no wonder he was so prolific with Brisbane Roar.

Going into a World Cup, what would you pay to have a cool, calm striker finishing off the few chances that Australia will generate? And has the pace to create some of his own?

Australia is currently in favour of Tomi Juric, a total opposite to Maclaren. The ex-Western Sydney Wanderer holds the ball up, puts his body on the line and is a real focal point of the attack.

Maclaren can seemingly ghost in and out of the play - until there he is, always in the right place in the box, picking his spot before anyone else has time to react. He has cat-like reflexes around goal, a trait Australia obviously lacks. Ange Postecoglou's successor would find that more than a little enticing.

But soon the question must go out about just how sharp he will be after a season of sitting on the bench of a team in the German second division.

Ironically, Frings has spoken in the press about how highly he thinks of the 24-year old.

"Jamie has settled in really nicely; we are very satisfied with him. Jamie trains very well and is definitely on the same level as the other strikers," he told AAP in November. "He will eventually get his chance as a starter."

Be that as it may, there has to be a query about why he rates American Terrence Boyd, Slovenian Roman Bezjak and now young 21-year old forward Felix Platte ahead of Maclaren in the pecking order.

And as we turn towards 2018, it might be time for the ex-Blackburn Rovers junior to have a think about whether another six months on the sidelines is the right thing for his World Cup prospects.

At the moment, despite being one of the nation's few true number nines, he's no better than a 50 per cent chance of making the final 23-man squad for the Russia - and is probably locked in a battle with Nikita Rukavytsya for the last remaining forward's position (provided Tim Cahill finds a club and stays fit).

With the January transfer window coming, it would make sense for Maclaren,

Darmstadt and the Socceroos to see the striker leave, at least on a loan deal.

If Australia can't count on Frings to give Maclaren the game time he
desperately needs, the least he can do is give his fourth-choice striker the chance to keep his World Cup dream alive.