Sport Football Schwarzer retires as Postecoglou steps in
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Schwarzer retires as Postecoglou steps in

Luke Wilkshire playing against France
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The axing of defenders Luke Wilkshire and Sasa Ognenovski, and the retirement of Mark Schwarzer, sends warnings to an ageing core in the first Socceroos’ squad picked by new coach Ange Postecoglou.

Schwarzer, Australia’s most-capped player, quit international soccer hours before Postecoglou on Wednesday announced a 22-man squad for a friendly against Costa Rica on November 19.

Schwarzer was set to be included in the squad but decided to end his decorated 109-game international career, leaving 25-year-old Mitch Langerak as frontrunner for the goalkeeping role. 

The new Socceroos coach paid tribute to the departing ‘keeper and said he was a “great servant” of Australian football.

“Mark was included in this squad but decided he wanted to announce his retirement and not participate,” Postecoglou told a media conference.

“I’ve got the utmost respect, firstly for his decision and secondly it would be remiss of me not to pay tribute to him.

“He’s no doubt one of our all time greats. A great servant, always available to play for his national team, sometimes under difficult circumstances.

“When we talk about character and restoring pride to our national shirt, Mark is right up there.”

Wilkshire, 32, and Ognenovski, 34, face an uncertain future after being snubbed by Postecoglou.

Captain Lucas Neill was retained, along with fellow stalwart Mark Bresciano, as Postecoglou took a measured first step on the path to regenerating the Socceroos.

But all face pressure to extend their international careers to next year’s World Cup in Brazil, with Neill battling to keep the captaincy from likely replacement Tim Cahill.

Postecoglou selected a squad with a notable A-League flavour by picking Ivan Franjic (Brisbane Roar), Matt McKay (Roar), Mark Milligan (Melbourne Victory) and Michael Zullo (Adelaide United).

“I’m excited by the squad we have named,” Postecoglou said.

“The first task is to have a good look at the bulk of the players who played a significant part in qualifying Australia for the 2014 World Cup and also giving opportunities to players I think have the ability to improve the team.

“I want to give every Australian player the best opportunity to stake a claim for Brazil and beyond.”

Postecoglou said the issue of the team’s captaincy was an interesting one, with speculation Neill could be dumped from the roll.

“My main focus is the team right now. I want them playing a certain style of football and creating a really strong foundation to have a good World Cup,” he said.

“The individuals within that are less important to me right now than the collective.

“And even the captaincy, I look at this list and there are some good leaders in there,” he said, citing Neill, Cahill, Mile Jedinak and Milligan.

“I have never seen the captaincy as something that is crucial to what I build.

“To me, it’s more about the team. The captaincy is symbolic of that team and I’d be looking for leadership from a number of players in this squad and hopefully that alleviates that intense focus on one individual moving forward.”

Postecoglou overlooked Wilkshire, 32, Brett Holman, 29, Ognenovski, 34, and David Carney, 29, but denied their international careers were over.

“The players who have missed out on this squad haven’t had a line put through them,” Postecoglou said.

“The opportunities will be there for anyone whose form particularly warrants it.”

Postecoglou was appointed on an unprecedented five-year contract after German-born coach Holger Osieck was sacked last month after consecutive 6-0 away defeats to Brazil and France.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Mitchell Langerak (Borussia Dortmund), Mat Ryan (Club Brugge KV).

Defenders: Jason Davidson (SC Heracles Almelo), Ryan McGowan (Shandong Luneng), Lucas Neill (Omiya Ardija), Rhys Williams (Middlesbrough FC), Alex Wilkinson (Jeonbuk Hyundai), Michael Zullo (Adelaide United).

Midfielders: Oliver Bozanic (FC Luzern), Mark Bresciano (Al Gharafa), Ivan Franjic (Brisbane Roar), James Holland (FK Austria Vienna), Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace FC), Matthew McKay (Brisbane Roar), Mark Milligan (Melbourne Victory), Tom Rogic (Celtic FC), Dario Vidosic (FC Sion).

Forwards: Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls), Josh Kennedy (Nagoya Grampus), Robbie Kruse (TSV Bayer 04 Leverkusen), Mathew Leckie (FSV Frankfurt), Tommy Oar (FC Utrecht)