Safe, solid selections a sign of van Marwijk’s style

by Sebastian Hassett on Mar 12, 2018

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With 29 players selected, Bert van Marwijk would cast his first net as Socceroos’ coach long and wide for the upcoming matches against Norway and Colombia.

There were a few new faces – we’ll get to them shortly – but what was notable was that he didn’t rattle any cages. Smart move? Probably. It’s too early to be making enemies, especially when you’ve got such little time to get things right.

We all remember Ange Postecoglou for clearing out so many players after he took over in late 2013 but he also picked Lucas Neill as captain in the boss’s first game against Costa Rica. Sometimes, you have to wait to make the moves you want.

Besides, van Marwijk owes it to the incumbents to have a good look. It is essentially the core of the squad that won the Asian Cup then qualified for the World Cup, with the addition of a couple of new and fringe faces. Sadly, there was no Daniel Arzani, who will hopefully will respond by upping his game even more with Melbourne City and forcing the issue come June.

Brad Jones’s return to the international fold will raise some eyebrows after so long away. Clearly a favourite of van Marwijk, he will be stalking Mitch Langerak and Danny Vukovic as Mathew Ryan’s deputy.

Undoubtedly, playing well for Feyenoord puts him right in the mix. But performing in the Netherlands across town at Sparta Rotterdam wasn’t enough for neither Kenny Dougall nor Craig Goodwin. We’ve never gotten to the bottom of why Jones was overlooked by Postecoglou, although it has been suggested that Jones wasn’t interested in being a back-up option.

Curiously, playing in the Czech Republic was enough for Aleksandar Susnjar, the name that will have caught many by surprise.

I’ve looked at Susnjar quite a bit – he played every minute of the Asian under-23 championships – and feel he’s certainly developing. But you’d have to think his selection is a bit of a speculative gamble, especially when the overlooked Connor Chapman has transformed as a player since his move to South Korea.

James Meredith, a stalwart of the English lower leagues, has earned his spot, especially because he’s now established himself as a premium left-back in the Championship. He’s done a hell of an apprenticeship.

Josh Risdon will know he absolutely has to fire to keep his World Cup dream alive, but with the right and left-back spots firmly up for grabs, van Marwijk will be looking to make a quick call on the Wanderers’ defender. Ivan Franjic will be burning to get back in the team. Luke Wilkshire will keep asking the question, too.

Although Josh Brillante will have a hard time cracking into the final World Cup squad, it’s pleasing to see him rewarded with a call-up. That’s two years where he’s been among the A-League’s best midfielders.

Did James Troisi deserve the call? There’s a talking point. He has to be in the mix for Russia but the Melbourne Victory man wasn’t as dominant as he has been in the past. But here’s a truth. He’s a tournament player – starring in the Asian Cup and Confederations Cup – which must mean something.

He’s in direct competition with Dimi Petratos and Andrew Nabbout, two players who were cast aside at Sydney FC and Victory and have been reborn in Newcastle. You couldn’t pick one without the other and it’s a win for Jets and the A-League to see them in here. Russia? We’ll see. Big step up, that. Let’s get through these two games first.

Before anyone asks, of course Tim Cahill was going to be included. Van Marwijk is a natural pragmatist, and there was no chance of creating unnecessary controversy. Jamie Maclaren will want to give the boss something to consider, however. A proper poacher, he brings something very different indeed.

Either way, for those lucky enough to be heading to Europe later this month, it’s time to shine.