Australia coach Ange Postecoglou says he has all but settled on his final 23-man squad for the Asian Cup with only a handful of spots still up for grabs.
Speaking after announcing his provisional 46-man squad for the tournament which starts in less than a month, Postecoglou revealed, barring injury, he wasn’t far off finalising his squad.
“I don’t know about certainties, but I’ve got an idea of about 25-26 players who I think will make the final 23,” Postecoglou said.
“Having said that, I don’t want to be left short like we were at the World Cup where we didn’t have options after injuries. I’ll keep my eye on all these players.
“All things going well, there’s probably 25-26 players who are in real contention for that 23-man final squad.”
Interestingly, Postecoglou named Rhys Williams and Josh Kennedy, who’ve missed the bulk of this year with their current injury problems.
He also opted to select a 46-player group rather than fill the 50-man list afforded to him, putting the line through the likes of Luke Wilkshire and the injured Curtis Good.
Postecoglou has named 14 recognised defenders in his provisional squad and admitted the backline was an area of concern.
“At the back is the area we’ve consistently lacked real depth,” he said.
“It’s been great that Trent Sainsbury has been given some opportunities between the World Cup and now.
“We’ve added Nikolai Topor-Stanley. Getting Matt Spiranovic back, fit and well, with Alex Wilkinson - all of a sudden we’ve got some extra depth.
“Aziz Behich has been a fantastic bonus since the World Cup because the full-back area is one we’re a bit thin on.
“Chris Herd made the first-team bench again for Villa last night, so he’s getting closer to breaking in there.
“That’s the area we had the most concerns pre-World Cup and post-World Cup, but certainly now I feel a lot more comfortable leading into this tournament than I did pre-World Cup.”
Among that defensive group, though, there are a number of players battling for game-time at club level.
West Bromwich defender Jason Davidson headlines that list, along with Aston Villa’s Chris Herd, Liverpool’s Brad Smith and Torpedo Moscow’s Ivan Franjic, all recognised full-backs.
In addition, Preston North End’s Bailey Wright is currently injured and Asia-based pair Ryan McGowan and Alex Wilkinson are now out of season.
Postecoglou has been strong on selecting footballers who are playing regularly but conceded that defensively he may need to make an exception.
“Most of them now are playing regularly, but there’s probably one or two exceptions,” he said.
“The reason we’re making those exceptions is we’re thin in those areas. We have to take a couple of gambles on players who we know fit in our set-up and can play our style of football, but unfortunately their club circumstances are not allowing them to play regular football.
“For the most part, though, the guys I’ve got in mind are playing regularly.”comments