A Socceroos starting XI to beat Japan

Ben Sewell Roar Pro

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    Ange Postecoglou has named his 30-man preliminary squad for the Socceroos upcoming World Cup qualifiers. These are two vital games for Australia as a loss in either game will likely put an end to Australia’s direct World Cup qualification hopes.

    In all likelihood a draw against Japan and a win against Thailand should be enough, but Postecoglou will be hoping to take all six points away from these two games. So with that in mind, it’s time to start planning the side Postecoglou will use against the first of these two qualifiers, away to Japan in Saitama.

    Formation: 4-2-3-1
    Postecoglou’s recent love for three at the back must come to an end, especially for this away leg. Three at the back formations work best with elite centre backs to cover up quick turn overs in midfield. The obvious advantage of this is that the wingbacks can venture further up the field on offence and support the striker with crosses out wide.

    Australia’s centre backs have definitely not inspired confidence in the past 12 months, however, and this needs to be rectified with a more stable four at the back defence. Postecoglou will, however, get to keep his preferred wing and sole striker option up front with a midfield triangle of two defensive and one offensive Midfielder.

    Goalkeeper
    Mat Ryan

    The undoubted number one goal keeper for Australia right now is Mat Ryan. Ryan earned his first Premier League cap over the weekend as he debuted for Brighton and Hove Albion. This will be a big season for Ryan as he attempts to cement himself in a top league after his move to Valencia in the Spanish league was tarnished with injury and managerial chance.

    Still, even through all the adversity Ryan was able to maintain his position in the Socceroos side, and now with 35 caps to his name he has his sights set on Mark Schwarzer’s record for most capped Socceroo.

    (Image: Patrick-Leigh / CC BY-SA 2.0)

    Defence
    Aziz Behich, Trent Sainsbury, Mark Milligan and Milos Degenek.

    Behich has been a consistent performer for both club and the national team for several seasons now. With 86 games for Bursaspor in the Turkish League and 16 games for the Socceroos, Behich is the most experienced option at Left Back for Postecoglou heading into this important clash.

    Behich also offers valuable overlapping and crossing options heading forward in attack. He played extremely well for Australia in the Confederations Cup, claiming his spot back from Brad Smith, who with his consistent lack of club form appears to have lost his grip on the position.

    Sainsbury’s lack of club football is a worry, but he still remains a leader in defence for this side. He was forced out of his Chinese club side Jiangsu Suning due to visa rule changes in the league. As a result, Trent was loaned out to Inter Milan but was unable to capitalise, playing only once for the Italian giant.

    Several clubs were rumoured to be interested in Sainsbury during the offseason, but at this stage it appears he will be returning to Jiangsu Suning. Club football aside, Sainsbury acquitted himself well in the recent Confederations Cup as the leader of the Socceroos defence and is a near certainty to start the match.

    Milligan is Postecoglou’s Mr Fixit, having played several different positions in defence and midfield. With Matthew Spiranovic currently waning in the Chinese second division and Bailey Wright’s recent national team form rather suspect, expect Postecoglou to turn to a tried and proven option in Milligan.

    Mark recently completed a move back to the A-League to join his former club Melbourne Victory on a marquee deal. There had been speculation over his fitness for this game, but he started and played 82 minutes in the FFA Cup against Brisbane last week. Milligan, barring any unexpected injury, will be ready to go for this game.

    Degenek, perhaps one of the more controversial selections in this side, gains this position by virtue of very little competition. Ryan McGowan has consistently underperformed for the Socceroos recently and should start on the bench for this clash.

    Milos has been a regular performer for his club side Yokohama F.Marinos in the J League, starting in 18 games this season. His experience playing alongside other Japanese players week in and week out should be an advantage for the defender and should see him selected ahead of McGowan for this game. Don’t, however, be surprised to see him pulled at half time if the Japanese attack begins to find holes in his game.

    Midfield
    Mile Jedinak, Tom Rogic and Aaron Mooy (triangle).

    Jedinak, the captain and rock of this side, with 71 international caps to his name, brings a wealth of experience to this important clash. Mile has been battling a groin injury since the latter stages of last season, which forced him out of the Confederations Cup, but should he prove his fitness in time for this clash, he’s a must inclusion for this side.

    With 17 goals for the Socceroos, he’s a proven threat from set pieces and a very reliable penalty-taker. Australia need their captain to be fit for this game to give themselves their best hope of taking all three points.

    Mooy, the current darling of Australian football, made his Premier League debut this past weekend for Huddersfield Town, and he performed extremely well, with a 90-minute performance that featured two assists in the team’s defeat of Crystal Palace by a comfortable 3-0 margin.

    Aaron’s vision in passing and ability to link up with attackers cannot be understated, while he has also scored twice in this World Cup qualification campaign. Mooy and Jedinak should be the perfect defensive midfield combination for this important clash with a nice mix of defence and attack.

    Rogic should be one of the first players picked in this side as one of the most talented 10s Australia has produced in a long time. Tom’s exploits in Europe have served him well, with club side Celtic FC one win away from reaching the Champions League again. The big match experience Rogic is receiving in these European games cannot be understated as he is now starting to perform on the biggest stage for the Socceroos.

    All Rogic’s seven international goals have come in the past two years, with six goals in qualification games and his most recent goal against Germany in the opening Confederations Cup game. Rogic is goal threat from anywhere in the park and will also feed the front three well if required. Australia’s midfield is their undoubted strength and Rogic certainly plays his part at the front of it all.

    (Image: AAP Image/Paul Miller)

    Attack
    James Troisi, Tom Juric and Mathew Leckie.

    Troisi’s most recent outing for the Socceroos was against Chile in the Confederations Cup, when he slotted home the opening goal and took home man of the match honours. This was one of Troisi’s best performances for the national side as Australia fought valiantly to take a point from that game, finishing level at 1-1. Troisi’s play up the wing was excellent that day as he combined for crosses from the sideline, with cuts inside to create his own shot.

    A wing pairing that can switch sides at any given time adds an extra dimension to the attack, and Troisi provides just this, being a threat with his both left and his right foot. Troisi should be picked ahead of Postecoglou favourite Robbie Kruse purely down to form and club time. Troisi was excellent all year for Melbourne Victory last season and his national team form shone as a result.

    Leckie, often the whipping boy of Australian football due to his inability to finish in front of goal, has found reasonable success this qualification campaign, slotting home three goals so far. He should partner Troisi on the wings in what will be a dangerous combination for the Socceroos due to the ability of both wingers to run wide and cross and cut inside and shoot.

    Mathew has a big season in front of him, having recently transferred to Hertha Berlin following the relegation of his previous side FC Ingolstadt from the Bundesliga. Should Leckie continue to find his goal-scoring form against Japan and break his way into the starting XI for Hertha Berlin, he should remain Postecoglou’s first-choice winger heading into next years World Cup.

    Juric has had an enormous 12 months, finding regular goal-scoring form for both club and the national side. Tom banged in 14 goals across all competitions for club side FC Luzern in Switzerland while also slotting home four goals for the Socceroos, including a brace against Saudi Arabia.

    Tom is the perfect marksmen for the Socceroos and provides an able scorer across all facets, excelling in both ground shots and headers. Juric, at just 26 years of age, is entering the prime of his career and looks set to take over the mantle Tim Cahill will leave behind when he inevitably walks away from the game.

    Prediction
    Although Postecoglou and the side will be aiming to take away all three points from this fixture, in all likelihood they will be happy with a draw. The past three times these two sides have met in a World Cup qualification match the result has ended in a draw, and this match will likely be the same, with both sides desparate to avoid defeat.

    Expect Australia to attack early in this game and then try and protect a lead, but overall they will be satisfied with sharing the points.

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