Cruel twist but Bert nailed Socceroos selections
ONE irritated knee changed several lives this weekend, but it's hard not to see the end result as the right one.
The injury doubts hanging over Tomi Juric led to the belated call-up last week of Jamie Maclaren to Australia's extended World Cup squad - and the striker did sufficiently well in difficult circumstances to earn a place in the final 23.
Without that, one of James Troisi, Nikita Rukavytsya, Fran Karacic or Josh Brillante would not have been sent home. They must have reflected that football can be a fickle beast as they sat at Antalya Airport on the southern Turkish coast on Saturday night.
But the upshot is that the dangerously low number of striking options obvious in Bert van Marwijk's initial list has been beefed up. Thanks to the energy and enthusiasm with which Andrew Nabbout has taken to playing through the middle - "man, I'd play in goal if Bert wanted me to," he told us on Friday - the Dutch coach now has four options, all of them a little different.
Maclaren is unlikely to start at the World Cup, though after the way he has turned around his apparent exile, nothing is ruled out.
But with a game in the balance, he offers a nimble presence to add upfront in the pursuit of goals - plus, you imagine, a desire to train the house down, so uplifted must his confidence levels now.
Of the rest of the faces that made it into the final 23, few are anything like the surprise. Josh Risdon was inked-in the moment van Marwijk picked him out for praise after the 4-0 defeat of the Czech Republic on Friday.
Likewise Nabbout for his goal in that game, and Milos Degenek once he had minutes near the end. At centreback, van Marwijk has three good options for two positions in Trent Sainsbury, Mark Milligan and Matt Jurman.
Juric and captain Mile Jedinak must surely play against Hungary on Saturday in the final warm-up game, to dispel their injury concerns.
But now the uncertainty is over. All 23 players know they will be there until the end of Australia's World Cup campaign, and all may be needed at any time.
If we thought training was intensive last week, surely the stakes are raised even higher now, with 13 days to go until the opening game for the Socceroos.
Socceroos' last four World Cup omissions
1. Fran Karacic, 22 (Lokomotiva Zagreb, Croatia)
Bert preferred: Josh Risdon
Having never been part of a Socceroos camp, Karacic needed to shine to oust incumbent Josh Risdon and the fact that there was only one friendly hurt him.
2. Josh Brillante, 25 (Sydney FC)
Bert preferred: Milos Degenek/Jamie Maclaren
Named as a "defender" indicating he was competing for a right-back spot. Versatile defender Degenek was ultimately preferred as Risdon's back-up.
3. James Troisi, 29 (Melbourne Victory)
Bert preferred: Daniel Arzani/Dimi Petratos
Troisi, whose international record is decent, struggled to win over van Marwijk, who sacrificed his raw speed for Daniel Arzani and Dimi Petratos' trickery.
4. Nikita Rukavystsya, 30 (Maccabi Haifa, Israel)
Bert preferred: Jamie Maclaren/Dimi Petratos
The rapid attacker dropped down the pecking order once Robbie Kruse secured the left wing, van Marwijk took a shine to Petratos and Nabbout plus Maclaren's late inclusion.
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