Socceroo time. It’s getting close again to when Antonio Valencia will lead Ecuador into battle against our boys in Green and Gold for what a few politically-minded wags have termed the Assange Cup.
It’s been three months since our last hit out, Ange Postecoglou’s first tentative game in charge of the senior team against Costa Rica. And in a World Cup year, three months too long.
Much has changed since November. Robbie Kruse and Rhys Williams have suffered cruel injuries and are no longer a chance for Brazil. Lucas Neill still hasn’t played an official club game.
On the plus side, Matthew Leckie and Nikita Rukavytsia are back in form, Ben Halloran is proving a winner at Dusseldorf, Matt Ryan is being chased by clubs all over Europe, Jason Davidson is in career-best form in the Eredivisie while Adam Sarota and Carl Valeri have made long-awaited injury comebacks.
Three months is a massive wait, especially in a World Cup year. Need it be this long?
Not in the least.
The A-League has come a long way since the days of Pim Verbeek claiming that if a player is serious about his Socceroo ambitions, training in Germany is preferable to playing back home. Besides which, there is a good number of current and fringe Socceroos plying their trade in the A-League to make a domestically-based national side entirely viable.
But first, the concept. It is hardly new. A domestically based Socceroo side playing at least three internationals per calendar year. What could be wrong with that?
The idea is to keep the team structure going, test out fringe players, give current national team members more practice together and give opportunities to up-and-coming youngsters to learn the national team style from the senior coach. And keep sending a powerful message to players and fans alike that YES, YOU CAN GET PICKED FOR AUSTRALIA FROM THE A-LEAGUE.
A FIFA international break is unnecessary. Picture this:
After an A-League round, the selected team gathers in a hotel on Monday morning. Fitness tests and recovery sessions are conducted as players go into camp. Team structure and video sessions on Monday afternoon. Two more training sessions on Tuesday and one on Wednesday morning and the players return to their clubs.
After the following weekend’s round the players re-gather, go into another short camp and play a home international on the Wednesday night. Or if playing an away match, fly out Monday afternoon, have a day to prepare and return to their clubs Thursday or Friday.
So it is logistically possible, A-League clubs won’t lose players and the Socceroo cause is advanced, and by default, the A-League’s.
Oh and Foxtel and SBS get a few more matches for which to sell advertising. Win-win all round.
But do we have the players to make the exercise meaningful? You bet.
If I were picking a domestically based team today – with an eye to the future but still World Cup focused - I’d go for something like this:
Galekovic; Franjic, Ognenovski, Spiranovic, Zullo; Milligan, McKay, Rogic; Bresciano, Duke, Juric,
At least six or seven of these will on the plane to Brazil. Enough said.
Rest of the squad:
Vukovic, Covic; Smith, North, Thwaite, Risdon, Behich; Mooy, Antonis, Kantarovski, Brillante, Gligor; Williams, Troisi, Thompson, Kewell, Taggart, Goodwin and Ibini.
Or near enough to that.
And the opponents?
There is plenty of decent local opposition around. New Zealand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand are four that spring immediately to mind.
It’s a slightly longer flight to China, Japan or South Korea and only fourteen hours to South America, or indeed South Africa.
It is all very doable and simply requires Ange Postecoglou and the FFA to commit themselves to three more internationals.
The benefits are massive. The downsides are negligible.
So how about it, FFA?