Australia announces youthful 30-man World Cup squad
SYDNEY (AP) - Mark Bresciano earned a recall from suspension and joins Tim Cahill, Mark Milligan, Josh Kennedy and Luke Wilkshire among the Socceroos in line for a third World Cup in an otherwise youthful preliminary Australia squad.
Coach Ange Postecoglou announced the 30-man squad on Wednesday and will cut it to 23 by June 2. Bailey Wright, a 21-year-old central defender for Preston North End in England's third tier, and Fortuna Duesseldorf winger Ben Halloran were the only uncapped players selected.
Wright surged into contention due to the unavailability of other players and the absence of long-time captain Lucas Neill, who was told by Postecoglou last week that he wouldn't be part of Australia's World Cup plans.
''We've had some injuries and disruptions, particularly in the defense. We have some challenges there, but overall I'm happy with the balance,'' Postecoglou told a news conference. ''Yes there is some inexperience .... (but) we needed to regenerate the team. We needed to make some meaningful change, but at the same time understand that it's a World Cup.''
Australia faces defending champion Spain, 2010 runner-up Netherlands and Chile in a tough group in Brazil.
''We face a formidable challenge but it is also a big opportunity and we head to the World Cup with no barriers,'' said Postecoglou, who took over as national coach late last year after Holger Osieck was fired in the wake of back-to-back 6-0 defeats to Brazil and France.
Bresciano served a four-month ban due to an illegal transfer involving clubs in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar when he joined Al Gharafa from Al Nasr, but Postecoglou said the veteran midfielder had shown enough in his recent matches to warrant selection. He also picked rangy Japan-based forward Kennedy, who scored a crucial goal in Australia's qualifying campaign, for the first time since becoming head coach.
Wright was reportedly among the six players from Preston North End questioned by British police over spot-fixing allegations earlier in the year but has denied any wrong doing.
''He's only a young man beginning his career,'' Postecoglou said. ''But he has had some really strong consistent form at Preston North End in a team that has done well and is on the verge of promotion to the (English) Championship.
''We have had some injury clouds over a couple of our center backs, so he's one that played almost 50 games this year, is in good - It makes sense to bring him in and have a look at him in a national team environment.''
The average age of the squad is 23, which was expected when Postecoglou hinted he was already thinking about building a team for the 2018 World Cup. His squad contains 10 players from the domestic A-League.
It's ''a great opportunity for some of these younger players to forge their own national team careers,'' Postecoglou said. ''We needed to change the direction of our national team.''
Crystal Palace midfielder Mile Jedinak, who is vying with Cahill as the likely captain to replace Neill, was selected despite concern over a groin strain.
Australia host South Africa in an international friendly on May 26.
Goalkeepers: Mark Birighitti, (Newcastle Jets), Eugene Galekovic (Adelaide United), Mitchell Langerak (Borussia Dortmund), Mat Ryan (Club Brugge).
Defenders: Jason Davidson (SC Heracles Almelo), Ivan Franjic (Brisbane Roar), Curtis Good (Newcastle United), Ryan McGowan (Shandong Luneng), Matthew Spiranovic, (Western Sydney Wanderers), Alex Wilkinson (Jeonbuk Hyundai), Luke Wilkshire (Dynamo Moscow), Bailey Wright (Preston North End)
Midfielders: Oliver Bozanic (FC Luzern), Mark Bresciano (Al Gharafa), Joshua Brilliante (Newcastle Jets), James Holland (Austria Wien), Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace), Massimo Luongo (Swindon Town), Matthew McKay (Brisbane Roar), Mark Milligan (Melbourne Victory), Tommy Oar (FC Utrecht), Tommy Rogic (Melbourne Victory), Adam Sarota (FC Utrecht), James Troisi (Melbourne Victory), Dario Vidosic (FC Sion).
Forwards: Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls), Ben Halloran (Fortuna Duesseldorf), Josh Kennedy (Nagoya Grampus), Matthew Leckie (FSV Frankfurt), Adam Taggart (Newcastle Jets)
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