With another 4-0 win over Bangladesh, the Socceroos wrapped up 2015 by inching closer to World Cup qualification. With several players making debuts and a constantly changing formation in recent qualifiers, eyes will soon turn to Ange Postecoglou to begin cementing a constant starting XI in preparation for the 2018 World Cup.
Here’s a suggested team, based on the performances this year (Formation 4-3-3).
Maty Ryan is arguably the best keeper of the lot, but it’s hard to pick a goalkeeper ranked as third choice at club level. While Federici’s recent performances for Bournemouth have been anything but convincing, at least he has current game minutes, crucial for Postecoglou’s expectations. Should Ryan find himself back on the pitch in La Liga, he is first choice.
Defenders: Davidson, Sainsbury, Spiranovic, McGowan
It’s hard to go past the fantastic partnership between Sainsbury and Spiranovic, despite fair competition from Wilkinson and Wright for the CB spot. The understanding between the two players complements the Socceroo’s build-up style of play and reliance on comfort in possession.
Merideth did well in his first couple of games at left fullback, but probably not enough to oust Jason Davidson from the position. It’s hard to tell after just two games, but Merideth looks like the better of the two in crossing the ball, but perhaps not defensively.
On the right is just as unconvincing. I’ve gone with Ryan McGowan, once again based on defending ability more so than getting forward and creating danger up the wing, otherwise Elrich would have a look in. The fullback positions remain the weakest links in the squad.
Midfielders: Jedinak, Mooy, Rogic
In two matches (albeit against inferior opposition), Aaron Mooy has looked to solidify his position as the centrepiece of Ange’s attacking strategy. As well as being given the responsibility for set pieces, Mooy’s ingenious vision and decision making can be the cornerstone for Australia’s fluid approach to goal (evidenced by assists against Bangladesh).
Another player with the ability to change a game with intricate play is Tom Rogic. This is becoming very obvious with match-winning displays for Glasgow Celtic. Rogic is one of the few Aussies taking ownership of a first team place in an elite European competition and should be rewarded with a national team spot.
Jedinak may not be receiving as many game minutes as he would like, but in the last couple of qualifiers, he brushed out the cobwebs and will have cemented his place as CDM and captain of the squad, even bagging a couple of goals in the process.
As much as fans would be disappointed with the absence of Massimo Luongo from the starting XI, the young midfielder simply hasn’t lived up to his enormous potential since the Asian Cup and will perhaps offer a greater threat coming off the bench.
The midfield has incredible depth with McKay, Troisi, Milligan and Brattan all vying for starts as well.
Forwards: Leckie, Cahill, Burns
Showing a bit of toe down the wings is Mathew Leckie and Nathan Burns, the latter particularly impressive in the last couple of qualifiers. While Ange has recently toyed with formations without outright wingers, pace behind the opposition defence will be key to success against top quality opposition, especially with Mooy pulling the strings in the middle.
Cahill may drift in and out of the midfield in search of the ball, it is clear he is still the target man in the box and really doesn’t have a protégé or replacement. There’s no saying when his legs will eventually give in, but while he’s still performing the way he is, age is not a factor.
2018 may seem a long way away, but there aren’t too many international fixtures each year, so Ange Postecoglou needs to finalise his preferred starting XI and begin refining strategy and chemistry. The Road to Russia is well and truly underway.