After 550-odd days, the Socceroos have finally been rebooted with 31 players picked. So what’s our starting eleven?
Redmayne, Ryan, Vukovic, Thomas
You’d have to say Ryan (Arsenal) is the number one. He’s only playing sporadically but is the incumbent keeper with a great record and is training every day at a superb level. I think Langerak would have pushed him for the starting role, given his excellence in the J-League this year, but his decision to be unavailable is entirely understandable.
Difficult to pick a deputy to Ryan but I suspect Redmayne will get at least one of the lesser matches on form.
Grant, Karacic, Sainsbury, Tongyik, Souttar, Degenek, Good, McGowan, Smith, Behich
Much depends on Arnie’s preferred shape. In the past he’s mainly gone for 4231 but has also played 442 and 433. 433 with two overlapping wingbacks gets a lot of attackers forward and I’d like him to consider that against the weaker teams but even that is very dependent on personnel.
I’m going to assume 4231 for the sake of simplicity, so in such a shape, you’d have to say Souttar is a certainty on current form. Sainsbury is probably his partner but very strong cases are made by Tongyik and Good and I think those will all see game time in Kuwait.
Rhyan Grant is the incumbent right back but will face strong competition from Fran Karacic who is doing very well for Brescia in Serie B. On the left, Behich and Smith will fight it out and it’s the toss of a coin between them.
Leckie, Dougall, Irvine, Genreau, Holland, Metcalfe, McGree, Hrustic, Ikonomidis, Mabil
Midfield is so much harder. If we’re playing a Six and Eight as we’ve mostly done under Arnie, I’d suggest Irvine (doing very well at Hibs) is locked in to be the Eight, as long as there’s an acceptable partner at Six. Looking for a Six, there’s only Holland and Dougall really (which makes me wonder whether 4231 is going to be Arnie’s preferred shape). Both of these players have done well for their clubs in recent times but neither are what we’re used to in the days of Mooy/Amini/Jeggo et al.
Irvine can play also Six, and on the basis of experience, I’d expect him to get the nod, which means you’ve got any number of options at Eight. Genreau has done really well but I doubt he’ll be First XI. I’d suggest McGree or Hrustic will play Eight, with Metcalfe as a Dark Horse.
Wider midfield/attackers will mean (I reckon) Boyle on the right and Mabil or Ruka on the left, but others come into play. Ikonimidis and Duke will come into calculation.
We don’t have a lot of Tens but Mabil likes to play there and so can Hrustic and McGree. Duke could probably do a job also.
MacLaren, Boyle, Borello, Duke, Giannou, Rukavytsya, Taggart
At number Nine, I expect MacLaren will get the nod on form, but Taggart and Ruka will definitely get game time.
All of this means a possible starting XI of:
Karacic, Souttar, Sainsbury, Smith
Boyle Mabil Rukavytsya
My only concern with this team is resilience in the middle, but there’s lots of pace and goals in there. An exciting team to watch and in pretty good individual form – which is so important when we’ve not played together for such a long time.
I expect us to get through to the next phase but our lack of game time will certainly be an issue. Hopefully we’ll come home with a wet sail after (perhaps) a difficult first encounter against Kuwait.
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