Sport Football Socceroos’ rollercoaster ride to continue
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Socceroos’ rollercoaster ride to continue

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Having already endured one rollercoaster year, the Socceroos will have to strap themselves in for another gut-churning ride in just six months’ time.

Ready or not, the entire world will be watching as they take on the might of Spain, the Netherlands and Chile at the World Cup in Brazil.

And if they’re to avoid the same humiliation of their recent 6-0 drubbings by Brazil and France when they face these similar footballing powerhouses in June, much needs to change.

Football Federation Australia implemented the most significant shift, axing coach Holger Osieck and ending an era of foreign mentors when appointing Ange Postecoglou to the helm in October.

To the Socceroos’ detriment, and ultimately his own, Osieck stuck largely with the experienced guard who guided Australia to Germany and South Africa.

He got Australia a berth in Brazil, only just, but failed miserably to navigate the side through their transitional phase, with Postecoglou now left to get rid of the old and blood the new.

But with only six months on the clock before the World Cup the real measure of the side’s transformation is more likely to be the Asian Cup on home soil in 2015.

Postecoglou has had one match in charge so far — a 1-0 win over Coast Rica in November — and the initial signs are good.

He may have retained under-fire Lucas Neill as skipper but he sent a clear message about the direction he wants to take the team by dumping the likes of stalwarts Brett Holman and Luke Wilkshire.

But while Holman and Wilkshire face uphill battles to work their way back in to the squad, the next few months shape as career-defining for several players.

None more so than Neill.

The 35-year-old defender made a sudden exit from his Japanese side Omiya Ardija, leaving his club future in doubt and his World Cup spot in jeopardy.

Postecoglou plans to settle on his extended Brazil squad soon after the next international friendly in March.

So Neill not only needs to find a club before then but be impressing at it, or he risks not being selected for the March clash – the final opportunity to cement a spot for Brazil.

And having selected the likes of Rhys Williams, Ryan McGowan and Alex Wilkinson in his first squad, Postecoglou has already shown he’s assessing other options at centre-back.

Fellow veteran Mark Bresciano also finds his World Cup spot at risk, although for entirely different reasons.

The 33-year-old midfielder has justified his spot more than any of the old guard with consistently strong performances this year.

But his appeal of a four-month FIFA ban for an alleged illegal transfer leaves him sweating the timing of the verdict.

Should it be delivered in the next few months and be unsuccessful, he’ll be ruled out of Brazil.

Mark Schwarzer’s retirement from international football in November has ignited an intense battle for the No.1 jersey with Club Brugge’s first-choice keeper Mathew Ryan and Borussia Dortmund’s reserve goalie Mitch Langerak emerging as the main contenders.

Fellow European-based players Robbie Kruse and Tommy Oar appear certainties for a maiden World Cup after both played crucial roles in securing Australia’s qualification.

Ivan Franjic looks to have secured his spot at right-back and Postecoglou will be keeping his eye on Jason Davidson and Michael Zullo as options for the troublesome left-back role.

But perhaps the Socceroo with most to play for is Tom Rogic.

Postecoglou highly rates the 20-year-old playmaker and feels he can become a leading light in the national side.

He just needs to start getting more game-time at Celtic.

There have been suggestions the former Central Coast dynamo should return to the A-League.

And he could do much worse with the competition continuing to serve Socceroos like Matt McKay and Mark Milligan well.

More than ever this season the A-League has become the place to get noticed.

Tomi Juric will be hoping to capitalise on Western Sydney’s remarkable rise to get himself on Postecoglou’s radar along with Central Coast’s Mitchell Duke while the likes of Mathew Spiranovic and James Troisi have made the move Down Under for the same reason.

And while the World Cup may no longer be a realistic goal, for Harry Kewell the veteran striker also made a return to the league, this time for Melbourne Heart, where injuries have marred his season so far.

With record crowds pouring through the gates, the big names kept on coming with former France international William Gallas joining marquees Alessandro Del Piero, Emile Heskey and Shinji Ono in the league when signing with Perth.

And on the back of the hugely successful Manchester United and Liverpool visits in July, the FFA have confirmed another big European club is headed to Australia next year.

But with the success of football at a domestic level so closely tied with how Australia perform on the international stage, let’s just hope it doesn’t all come undone in June.

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