Five A-League players banging on the door for Socceroos selection

This is the last A-League round players will have to impress before Australia coach Ange Postecoglou picks his squad for the next bracket of crucial 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying games.

Troisi, Taggart, Brillante

Troisi, Taggart, Brillante (L to R) Source: Getty Images

There is expected to be a greater concentration of A-League players than usual in the squad this time around, for the clashes away against Iraq on March 24 and in Sydney against United Arab Emirates on March 28.

That is to make up for Asian-based players only just getting back into gear with their competitions.

A squad of 28-30 players will be named on March 8 and that will be cut to 23 closer to the games.

The World Game has nominated five A-League players who are banging on the door for selection with their form this season, not including anyone who played in Australia's most recent game against Thailand in November.

Brisbane Roar striker Jamie Maclaren played that night and remains a contender. Tim Cahill was left out of that squad to get match fitness with Melbourne City and is tipped to return for the Socceroos. His game-breaking ability could be critical off the bench.

Newcastle Jets winger Andrew Nabbout is having a great season, but he needs to produce consistently good form over a longer period before he can hope to break through at national team level.

Here are the five front-runners:

1. James Troisi (Melbourne Victory, midfielder)

It will be a shock if he is not included, particularly with Tom Rogic unavailable because of injury.

He hasn't played for Australia since 2015, but has a solid background at this level, including an appearance in the Asian Cup final win over South Korea that year.

Troisi quickly became a vital cog in the Victory machine upon his return to the club this season. He has five goals and six assists so far. His ability to put Marco Rojas into space out wide or present Besart Berisha with goal-scoring opportunities is among the team's greatest strengths.

2. Alex Wilkinson (Sydney FC, centre-back)

sydney derby

If Postecoglou decides he needs someone in defence who is playing regularly and reliable, how could he go past this guy?

Wilkinson is 32 years old, but his career hasn't started going backwards yet. In fact, it's fair to say it hasn't even plateaued yet.

His is a position where experience, composure and reading of the game can compensate for losing a yard of pace as a player enters their 30s.

Wilkinson has been the best defender in the A-League this season and Postecoglou has rated him in the past. He used him at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

3. Josh Risdon (Perth Glory, right-back)

The Glory's Josh Risdon

He was in the squad for the most recent World Cup qualifier against Thailand, on November 15, but wasn't used.

But Postecoglou used him several times in the 12 months before that and Risdon didn't let him down.

No player has nailed down either fullback spot during Postecoglou's reign, so it will be interesting to see which options he decides to take this time.

Risdon is playing regularly. He has started in 18 games for Perth this season and frequently bombs forward, a trait Postecoglou favours with his fullbacks. He has three assists. No doubt he'll be considered for selection.

4. Adam Taggart (Perth Glory, striker)

A-League Rd 15 - Newcastle v Perth

Postecoglou used him at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, when Taggart had only just turned 21 but had been top scorer in the A-League with Newcastle Jets.

His career was stalled by injuries for the next two years in the UK, but he is back playing regularly for the Glory.

Most importantly, he is scoring regularly. Taggart is Perth's leading scorer this season, with 10 goals from 16 games. Eight of those goals have come in his last 11 games, including three in his last four.

5. Josh Brillante (Sydney FC, central midfielder)

A-League Rd 18 - Brisbane v Sydney

Another player Postecoglou has used previously, although not since 2014.

Unfortunately for Brillante, his move to Serie A club Fiorentina that year didn't work out as well as he hoped, and his lack of game time in the ensuing couple of seasons slowed his development.

But he has shone since returning to the A-League this season and his combination with Brandon O'Neill in the engine room for the Sky Blues is a big reason they are well clear at the top of the table.

Brillante turns 24 years old on March 25. Even if he doesn't make it back on this occasion there is still plenty of time left for him to do so. He's in good form. He could do a job if called upon and his versatility certainly doesn't hurt his chances.

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4 min read
Published 23 February 2017 at 6:19pm
By Greg Prichard