Brisbane captain Matt McKay is a late addition to Ange Postecoglou’s Socceroos squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Tajikistan and Jordan this week.
After being left out of the initial squad for these games, McKay replaces young midfielder Terry Antonis in the squad after he was ruled out with a groin injury.
With two games to play, Australia sit top of Group B, two points clear of Jordan and need to finish top of the group to guarantee a spot in the final round of World Cup Qualifying with only the four best second placed sides progressing.
Australia play against Tajikistan on Thursday night in Adelaide before rounding out the fixtures with a clash against Jordan on Tuesday in Sydney, meaning that McKay will miss this Saturday’s home game against Sydney FC but will be back in time for the final home game of the regular season against Newcastle.
The loss of McKay gives John Aloisi an interesting selection headache this week, with Steven Lustica the logical and most likely replacement for the captain, with Javier Hervas coming back onto the substitute bench.
There is however the possibility of using this opportunity to throw Tommy Oar into the starting side following his cameo against City on Friday night, with the possibility of moving Thomas Broich into a more central role.
That would be a bold and attacking move on Aloisi’s part, and would perhaps throw up questions about Lustica’s future with Brisbane given he’s been seen as the logical successor in midfield and has yet to sign a new contract.
Id lean towards Lustica for this game, he’s done a solid job in midfield and suits that left sided role well. It will be interesting to see which way Aloisi opts to go.
After Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Chile in Cuiaba, Australia’s –albeit minimal- hopes of progressing to the last 16 go on the line tomorrow morning in Porto Alegre in their second game against the Netherlands. The Dutch romped home against Spain on the weekend, however it’s unlikely the score will be some one sided this time around. Despite being the massive underdog and suffering injury doubts, Australia do at least have the weight of history on their side as the Dutch haven’t beaten Australia in the past three meetings between the two sides.
The Socceroos have got some injury concerns after their opening round loss to Chile, with Ivan Franjic on his way home from Brazil after sustaining a hamstring injury, while Mark Milligan will also miss the clash. Ryan McGowan is the obvious candidate to replace Franjic in the side, while Oliver Bozanic and James Holland are the likely replacements for Milligan, depending on how the Socceroos want to set up. It’s unlikely there will be any further changes, with the majority of the side who grew into the game in Cuiaba likely to get a second chance to impress. The Australian plan will surely be more of the same from the first game -opening 15mins aside- with crosses from Leckie and Oar aimed at Tim Cahill the expected order of the day.
Likely Australian side: Ryan, McGowan, Wilkinson, Spiranovic, Davidson, Holland, Jedinak, Bresciano, Leckie, Oar, Cahill.
The Dutch produced the shock of the tournament to date with their first up demolition of defending champions Spain, and with that in mind it’s highly unlikely that Luis van Gaal will make any changes to his starting side. If he were to make a change, it may be to swap Swansea’s Jonathan de Guzman –who picked up a caution in the first game- with Feyenoord’s Jordy Clasie. Outside of that the defence which was solid should remain in tact, while the threat upfront will come from Robben and van Persie who both shone in the opener.
Likely Netherlands side: Cillessen, Janmaat, de Vrij, Vlaar, Martins Indi, Blind, de Jong, de Guzman, Sneijder, Robben, van Persie.
In Group B’s other match of the day, Spain and Chile play off with the reigning champions fighting to stay alive in the tournament, and you’d say that a win would almost be essential La Roja after their dismal showing in the first game. Reports suggested that David De Gea was likely to get a start at the Maracana, however with his injury in training it’s expected that Iker Casillas will get a reprieve for now at least. They may also look to make a change in the front third, with Diego Costa ineffective in the opener, while at the back Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique looked to be struggling as a pairing.
I have to say that im more confident in Australia getting a result against the Dutch than I was against the Chileans, however the way they picked apart the best side of the past 5 years was rather disconcerting. Hopefully they have a bad day and left their scoring boots in Salvador Kick-off between Australia and the Netherlands from Porto Alegre is at 2.00am on SBS1 with the pre-game show from 1.30am. Spain and Chile will follow from the Maracana from 5.00am.
* With the World Cup here, I thought id write a brief preview and review of each of Australia’s games in Brazil, the first of which kicks off tomorrow morning at the viewer-friendly time of 8.00.pm.
Venue: Arena Pantanal (Cuiaba)
Ange has kept everyone guessing in terms of his starting XI, but I think there were some subtle clues over the past week or so – particularly in the Croatia game- that could hint at who may start the game. With so many injuries, the back four seemingly picks itself, with the more experienced –in football terms, not internationals- Alex Wilkinson preferred to the younger Ryan McGowan or Bailey Wright. Marco Bresciano from all reports is fit and ready to play, so expect him to come into the midfield, probably in place of Dario Vidosic which would see Tommy Oar on the left and Matt Leckie on the right.
Probable Australian XI: Ryan, Franjic, Wilkinson, Spiranovic, Davidson, Jedinak, Bresciano, Milligan, Leckie, Oar, Cahill.
Much of Chile’s build-up has been surrounding the availability of Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal and it was reported today that he had overcome his injury concerns and would take the field. Along with Alexis Sanchez, Vidal is the other outstanding individual in the Chilean side which is strong across the board. In general their style is reported to pressurise from the front and play an aggressive, attacking style which could test the still relatively still untried back four of Australia. It will also however give the potential for Australia to have counter attacking opportunities.
Probable Chilean XI: Bravo (c); Isla, Medel, Jara, Mena; Gutierrez, Aranguiz, Diaz, Valdivia; Sanchez, Vargas.
I haven’t seen a lot of Chile in truth so they’re a bit of an unknown, but they’ve got strong results and a couple of quality players. Many consider this to be Australia’s best shot at getting a result in the tournament –to me it’s the Dutch who we line up better against-, but Australia isn’t without a chance of getting something, albeit a small one.
Kick-off is on SBS1 at approximately 8.00am tomorrow morning, with the pre-game from 7.30. The other group b fixture between Spain and Netherlands kicks off at around 5am with the pre-game from 4.30.