Ange Postecoglou has restored a sense of pride to the Socceroos missing under Pim Verbeek and Holger Osieck. That, more than specific personnel, is what matters most from his provisional squad selection.
That Postecoglou is no slave to reputations is demonstrated by the fact the likes of Mark Schwarzer, Lucas Neill and Harry Kewell will be watching the tournament from afar.
In a squad screaming out for regeneration, Postecoglou has been ruthless in lopping several tall poppies from a tired looking outfit.
Of those who remain, Luke Wilkshire, Mark Bresciano, Tim Cahill, Josh Kennedy and Melbourne Victory skipper Mark Milligan will all feature at their third World Cup.
Kennedy, who hasn’t played a J. League game for club side Nagoya Grampus since April 19 due to injury, was invariably picked for his prowess in the air, while Postecoglou is no doubt also sweating on the fitness of new skipper Mile Jedinak.
Yet it will be left to a host of new names to try and revitalise a team which shocked the world by reaching the Round of 16 in Germany in 2006.
Newcastle Jets goalkeeper Mark Birighitti is likely to be the first name cut from the provisional squad, though the Jets custodian can reasonably expect to feature at the Asian Cup next year.
There was plenty of conjecture around the inclusion of Preston North End defender Bailey Wright, with some fans implying that playing in the third tier of English football did not warrant Wright’s inclusion.
Yet League One is a much tougher competition than the A-League and if Postecoglou’s mission is to regenerate the national squad, then Wright’s inclusion makes perfect sense.
His selection means that experienced Jeonbuk defender Alex Wilkinson is probably sweating bullets, particularly after his shaky cameo in Australia’s recent 4-3 friendly defeat to Ecuador.
Of all the names listed in midfield – and Oli Bozanic, James Holland, Massimo Luongo and Adam Sarota have all benefited from solid campaigns in Europe – Tom Rogic is perhaps the luckiest to make the provisional squad.
Postecoglou is no fan of players resting on their laurels – just ask Brett Holman – and Rogic’s inclusion after an injury-riddled loan spell at Melbourne Victory is a nod to the future, rather than a reward for current form.
Rogic is likely to force his way into the 23-man squad as the sort of fleet-footed player who can unlock a compact defence, but it’s safe to say his career hasn’t quite panned out as expected since he left the Mariners.
It’s up front where a most familiar face will lead the line, with the nation’s top goal scorer Tim Cahill set to be Australia’s key man in a squad with an average age of just 25.
He could be supplemented by a couple of tearaway German-based strikers, with Mathew Leckie and more recently Ben Halloran turning in some impressive performances in the Bundesliga’s second division.
That means Newcastle Jets striker Adam Taggart could be the unlucky man to miss out, although this year’s A-League Golden Boot winner should come into contention for the Asian Cup should he maintain his club form next season.
But what’s more important than the actual players Postecoglou selected, is the fact that the four-time domestic championship-winning coach has restored some pride to national team proceedings.
For all their supposed coaching abilities, Verbeek and Osieck neither knew about nor cared enough for the sort of traits which Australians prize in their national teams.
It’s one thing to play conservatively, but entirely another to appear to throw in the towel before a ball has even been kicked.
That’s not going to happen under a coach who has no reason to try and protect his CV.
The Socceroos may struggle to make it out of the group stage in Brazil, but at least under Postecoglou we have reason to believe our national team is heading in the right direction.