Injuries put Socceroos on trial

Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou admits injuries to key players will test his side’s depth but he’s optimistic about the next brigade coming through after naming four uncapped players in his squad to face Ecuador next week.

Chris Herd, Curtis Good, Ben Halloran and Massimo Luongo were selected in Postecoglou’s 23-man squad for the final match, prior to the announcement of a 30-man group for Brazil.

Their inclusion comes in the light of key duo Robbie Kruse (knee) and Rhys Williams (Achilles) effectively being ruled out of the 2014 World Cup after suffering injuries in the past few months.

“Those sort of injuries, when they happen in a World Cup year, are very disappointing,” Postecoglou said.

“Both would have played key parts, but they won’t be there which means it opens up an opportunity for other players.”

Williams’s injury along with the non-selection of experienced defensive duo Lucas Neill and Sasa Ognenovski, has created a headache for Postecoglou in the backline, leading to opportunities for Matt Spiranovic and Ryan McGowan, despite the latter being out of season in China.

“With the lack of depth at the moment, we needed one player who has played at international level recently and Ryan fits that bill,” Postecoglou said.

The bulk of Postecoglou’s 23-man squad are playing regular club football, but Herd is an exception – along with McGowan and USA-based Tim Cahill - having battled a troublesome hamstring over the past two months.

Herd has previously had to withdraw from a number of Socceroos camps at the last minute due to injury, meaning Postecoglou was eager to give him a long-awaited opportunity.

“We make the exception for him,” Postecoglou said. “He’s had a hamstring injury, he’s fit now and training, but he’s not match fit.

“He’s very highly rated at Aston Villa and we don’t have many players playing in the top league. With the game being in Europe, it’s an opportunity to bring him in and have a look at him.

“He’s certainly very hungry for an opportunity.”

Herd had seen plenty of first-team action for the Villans prior to his injury-interrupted 2013-14 campaign. Postecoglou was hopeful a return to fitness could help him build momentum ahead of the World Cup, earmarking him as a potential key player.

“He has that versatility and hopefully in the back half of the year he can break into the Villa side and play some games,” Postecoglou said.

“If he does that, he’s definitely one that can be an asset for us moving forward.”

Postecoglou was excited by former Tottenham youngster Luongo, who he said he had spoken with Spurs boss Tim Sherwood about to glowing reviews.

The Socceroos boss also said Liverpool teenager Brad Smith was ‘on his radar’ but needed to establish himself first.

Postecoglou added Croatia-based Tomislav Mrcela and Preston North End defender Bailey Wright were close but missed out on selection, but said he’d ‘keep tabs’ on their progress.

Meanwhile, Brett Holman’s World Cup hopes aren’t over, despite being ignored again by Postecoglou.

Holman played a key role in Australia’s attacking line-up during qualifying but appears to have fallen out of favour under the new Socceroos boss.

“He was close to being selected. He’s still very much in the frame,” Postecoglou insisted.

“We’ve got two or three other players in that advanced position in this game. If he finishes his season strongly, his performances have been getting better, which is good to see.

“He was very close to being in this squad.”