Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou has remained defiant amid a wave of criticism following his shock axing of veteran defender Luke Wilkshire.
Former national keeper Mark Schwarzer questioned Wilkshire’s omission from Postecoglou’s final 23-man World Cup squad saying if it was up to him he would have retained the defender who, with 80 international appearances, was the most capped of anyone in the squad.
The longtime Australian No.1 gloveman said the team would’ve been better off with the likes of Wilkshire, recently retired international Brett Holman and axed former skipper Lucas Neill.
While injury decided the fates of Josh Kennedy (back) and Tom Rogic (groin) and Mark Birighitti’s omission was expected, Wilkshire’s loss leaves the young back-line particularly inexperienced.
The likes of ex-Socceroos Robbie Slater and Mark Bosnich also joined the chorus of criticism.
The Socceroos play their final World Cup warm-up match against Croatia in Salvador, Brazil, on Friday (Saturday AEST), when Postecoglou will start close to his strongest XI.
Speaking before the clash, the coach made no apologies.
“No I’m not surprised at all, and look, people are entitled to their opinion. This is our national team, people are passionate about it I understand that,” Postecoglou said.
“But if people think I’m pulling the wrong reins now, well, they’d better get used to it, because I’m not going to change.
“I firmly believe – and since I’ve been in the job it’s become a lot clearer to me – that were on the right track and we’ll end up in a better place.
“If I was worried about people’s opinions I would have given up years go.
“If people think what I’m doing right now is not right, they’re going to be critical of me the whole time I’m in charge. This is what I do.”
The Socceroos face world No.13 side Chile in their opening World Cup clash on June 13.
Postecoglou cited the highly-rated South Americans as an example of the path Australia should be treading.
“This is our third World Cup in a row and I think our goal should be to be a stronger nation every time,” he said.
“If you look at Chile, we’re going to play them and everyone is so admiring of their style of play and the fact that they’re a real chance in the World Cup.
“They built that, they weren’t in that space four, eight years ago.
“That’s got to be our goal and I see with this group of players there’s an appetite for that. They want to take that on.”