For Holger Osieck, the pool of players Australian football has for him contains few surprises these days.
Well into his second year as coach of the Socceroos, the German tactician has taken a close look many times over at the full spectrum of players at his disposal and has now settled on a core group.
Even a raft of overseas trips across Asia and Europe during the last few weeks failed to unearth any surprises for Osieck.
This reality was confirmed yesterday when the Socceroos coach announced his latest 26-man squad, which will be cut down to 23 players before the first World Cup qualifier next month.
In a squad that features all the usual suspects, the biggest headline was Aston Villa youngster Chris Herd getting his first national team call up after being originally scheduled to join the Socceroos last November before an ankle injury ruled him out of contention.
Osieck’s trust in his core playing group was further underlined by the inclusion of Socceroos stalwart Harry Kewell despite the Melbourne Victory striker having not played since the A-League season wrapped up at the end of March.
Osieck acknowledged the 33-year-old is under a fitness cloud saying, “It is no secret that there are question marks over some players like Kewell and Thompson who have already terminated their season.”
“This is not good for match fitness. They may be healthy, in good spirit and okay but when it comes to international demands it is a different story.
“So I need to see if they are ready to do the job for us.”
With two players (Kewell and Thompson) who haven’t played a competitive minute of football for over two months making the national team squad, Osieck has made it clear it will be difficult for any player not currently in contention for a Socceroos berth to break in as Brazil 2014 approaches.
The one revelation in yesterday’s announcement was the inclusion of midfielder Mark Bresciano.
The former Palermo and Lazio player returned to the national team fold with aplomb in the match against Saudi Arabia in February after having stepped away from the international scene following the 2010 World Cup.
It’s a sign Osieck has acknowledged the Socceroos’ much maligned issues when playing with the German’s previously preferred midfield two of Carl Valeri and Mile Jedinak.
Osieck has experimented with this position before, most notably playing Neil Kilkenny alongside Jedinak, but the inclusion of Bresciano is instructive.
“Our set-up will always be the same because even if you play with two holding midfielders one is the motor and worker in midfield and the other the more creative player who feeds the attacking guys,” Osieck explained.
“Mile Jedinak and Neil Kilkenny did it (the attacking role) in the past but I think Mark has the best potential of everybody.”
“I think he has all the tools and the quality to play in that central (playmaking) role.
“He can impact our attacking game and, yeah, I consider him as a major part of our team for our forthcoming games.”
Unsurprisingly for a man who was a member of FIFA’s technical committee for so long, the German is correct in his assessment of Bresciano.
In the 32-year-old’s final season at Serie A side Palermo Bresciano was extremely effective in the exact same role as he helped lead the Rosanero to an impressive fifth placed finish.
In a cautious squad, the Melbournian’s re-emergence offers Socceroos fans one major talking point.
Australia: Mark Bresciano, Alex Brosque, Tim Cahill, David Carney, Nathan Coe (GK), Adam Federici (GK), Chris Herd, Brett Holman, Mile Jedinak, Joshua Kennedy, Harry Kewell, Neil Kilkenny, Robbie Kruse, Matt McKay, Mark Milligan, Lucas Neill, Jade North, Sasa Ognenovski, Nikita Rukavytsya, Mark Schwarzer (GK), Matt Spiranovic, Archie Thompson, Carl Valeri, Luke Wilkshire, Rhys Williams, Michael Zullo.
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