Football fans around Australia will breathe a sigh of relief at news that Tom Rogic’s ankle injury might be not be a serious as initially feared.
Hot on the heels of Robbie Kruse’s World Cup dream being shattered by a knee injury and Rhys Williams tearing his Achilles, the loss of another of the Socceroos’ young prospects would have been too much to bear.
Kruse had been making the most of his opportunities in one of the world’s top leagues, impressing at German club Bayer Leverkusen, scoring three goals in largely as an impact player off the bench.
At just 21, Rogic is the prototype around which Postecoglou could build the new Socceroos in his five-year plan.
The young playmaker possesses grace and poise beyond his years, and more importantly has that one thing all great players have amid the hurly-burly of midfield: time.
He reminds me of a cross between Ned Zelic and Mark Viduka. Fittingly, if Rogic were to play in a side with those two, he’d be central cog in the spine smack bang between them.
In his prime, Zelic was a sight to behold striding with the ball out of defence.
His goal against a star-studded Netherlands side in an Olympic qualifier back in 1992 is one of the best ever scored in green and gold as much for the skill as its sheer audacity. If you’ve never seen it, check it out here.
Zelic played for 13 clubs, mostly in Europe and Germany in particular where his libero skills were greatly admired. Sadly he never realised his full potential at full international level after falling out with then Socceroos coach Frank Farina. At QPR he earned the nickname Lord Lucan, because he was so rarely sighted on the pitch after a much heralded move from Germany.
As for Viduka, the smiling assassin is probably still smiling on a yacht somewhere off the Adriatic coast. On deck for the Socceroos, the Duke’s languid style and relative lack of goals were misinterpreted as laziness or lack of interest by some. But his ability to hold off two or three defenders and turn or play someone else in made him a handful for some of the world’s best centre-backs. Just ask Martin Keown, Sami Hyypia or Marco Materazzi. For a big man, the V-Bomber had exquisite feet, and was sorely missed in South Africa.
In his cameos for the Socceroos, Rogic has made an instant impact, gliding through the midfield elegantly, effortlessly, skipping over, through and around tackles like a young Zidane. That he has some size on his side will be a big plus as he matures. That he faded out of those games had more to do with lack of match fitness thanks to Celtic mothballing him than anything else.
Signing for the Glasgow giants might have been a great financial move but leaving the monoculture of Scottish football was the best career move Rogic could have made, and he’s not alone.
Defenders Sasa Ognenovski and Eddy Bosnar have also returned home to the A-League to get in the Socceroos’ coach’s sights. With Lucas Neill in club limbo and Postecoglou’s no walk-up starts policy, it’s game on for the central defensive roles in Brazil. There is competition, and competition is healthy.
The Socceroos coach is not exactly blessed with squad depth. He is reportedly looking at Australian-born Croatian defender Tomislav Mrcela, 23, who has had a handful of starts for Hrvatski Dragovoljac, rooted to the bottom of the Croatian first division with the second-worst defence.
Not glowing stats, but the interest might be more strategic with an eye to shoring up Mrcela’s loyalty as Postecoglou casts his net wide in his search for hidden gems of a green and gold hue. We wouldn’t want another Aussie Joe Simunic to slip through our grasp.
Filling the void left by the livewire Kruse up front will be a much tougher proposition. If Postecoglou wants to cast his net a little wider, Richie Porta could be an option. Brazil is just up the road for the Sydney-born Uruguayan, who is back at Nacional after a season in Dubai. He has bagged four goals in 13 matches so far this season for his club, who are second on goal difference.
As a striker, the 30-year-old has matured with age, scoring more goals (27) in the past three years than the previous six (13). It might have been thought his ship had sailed but his knowledge of South American football through five seasons at club and Copa Libertadores level, and familiarity with the conditions, could be invaluable to Australia on and off the field.
As we head into the final third of the season, the stakes for World Cup contenders ratchet up week by week. One slip, one, mistimed challenge, one awkward landing and it could be four years long years before a player gets another chance, and that’s if your country qualifies.
Anxious times for all involved: players, coaches and fans. But then again one man’s injury is another’s opportunity. Who will step up?
Robbie Kruse joins a growing list of high-profile players not going to Brazil, either through injury, or failure to qualify or suspension. They include:
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Gareth Bale, Radamel Falcao*, Bryan Oviedo, Aaron Ramsay, Robert Lewandowski, Branislav Ivanovic, Joe Simunic, Nemanja Vidic, Daniel Agger, Petr Cech GK
* in serious doubt but may recover from knee surgery in time.
Chant of the week
We’ll just call you Dave,
We’ll just call you Dave,
We’ll just call you Dave…
Chelsea fans to their Spanish fullback, who is keeping Ashley Cole out of the side and possibly the World Cup to boot.
Que? of the week
“’Quod licet Juvi, non licet bovi.’ What Jupiter is allowed to do, the ox is not allowed. Maybe here it is the other way round.”
Sepp Blatter when asked whether criticism of FIFA and Qatar by clubs such as Bayern Munich was “hypocritical”, goes all haiku about Germany’s business ties with Qatar. Can anyone translate his translation?
Spray of the week
“Materazzi’s a nasty person. He’s one of those kind of people who goes onto the field with the sole intention of doing harm; he’s violent. Now he’s stopped playing, he uses the same violence with his words. He’s repressed.”
Former Brazil and Inter great Lucio to former teammate Marco Materazzi after the Italian said the 35-year-old risked “making a fool of himself” by playing on with Palmeiras.
The Far Post welcomes your comments and debate. Last week, Swifty queried the formation of the Pest XI as a 3-7-0. There wasn’t one really. It was more a 20-legged midfield threshing machine, all gnashing studs and teeth, rolling around the field consuming everything in its path. Swifty rightly pointed out the likes of Duncan “Disorderly” Ferguson and Harald Schumacher deserved to be in the XI. They were in the mix and definitely would have been on the bench.
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