Five of the biggest shock Socceroos selections ever

Australia coach Ange Postecoglou stunned many when he selected 18-year-old Adelaide United rookie Riley McGree in his squad for the crucial 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying games against Iraq and UAE. The World Game looks back at five of the biggest shock Socceroos selections.

Milligan Kewell Elirch

(Left to right) Shock Socceroos selections involving Mark Milligan, Harry Kewell and Tarek Elrich Source: Getty Images

1. Harry Kewell is benched against Uruguay (2005)

There's a first time for everything and it turned out to be a master-stroke by coach Guus Hiddink.

Hewell had never been benched before at international level, but Hiddink wanted to do something dramatic to shake things up heading into the return leg of the play-off for a place at the 2006 World Cup finals.

Considering everything that was up for grabs, with Australia not having qualified for the finals since 1974 and trailing 1-0 coming back into Sydney, it was a massive decision.

Kewell may have been burning up inside, about being left out of the starting XI, but he reacted exactly as Hiddink obviously gambled he would when he came on in the 31st minute.

He was all class and had a huge bearing on Australia qualifying, right down to successfully taking the first spot kick in the heart-stopping penalty shoot-out.

2. Peter Raskopoulos captains the Socceroos as a 19-year-old on debut (1981)

Australia's campaign to qualify for the 1982 World Cup had turned to dust, with still some games to go, but all the games had to be played.

And with the 1981 World Youth Championship, to be played in Australia, not far away, a plan was hatched to give the Young Socceroos some vital preparation by drafting the team in for the remaining clashes against Indonesia and Taiwan.

Raskopoulos, 19, had previously played a B-game for the senior Australia team, but not made his full debut.

The midfielder, who had debuted in the old NSL for Sydney Olympic as a 15-year-old in 1977, made his full Socceroos debut as captain in the 1-0 loss against Indonesia and less than two months later, he captained the Young Socceroos to a 2-1 win over Argentina in their WYC opener.

3. Mark Milligan and Josh Kennedy crash the Golden Generation's World Cup party (2006)

Guus Hiddink knows a talent when he sees one and after everything had calmed down again after Australia's qualification for the 2006 World Cup finals, he had to pick a squad to go to Germany.

He included two previously uncapped players - Milligan, who was just 20 at the time, and Kennedy, 23.

They each made their Socceroos debuts in the final warm-up game against Liechtenstein.

Kennedy was used during the finals campaign and while Milligan didn't get a run there, it was still the start of something special for both.

Kennedy's appearances for the Socceroos were restricted due to injury issues, but he kept representing, on and off, for the best part of a decade before retiring in 2015. Milligan meanwhile, is still playing for the Socceroos now, at 31.

4. Duncan Cummings becomes the youngest-ever Socceroo at 17 years and 139 days (1975)

He's still the youngest-ever today, ahead of George Christopoulos (17 years and 182 days against Greece, 1978) and Harry Kewell (17 years and 214 days against Chile, 1996).

Cummings was playing for South Melbourne when he was picked to represent Australia against China at Olympic Park, Melbourne, on August 6, 1995.

The young striker came off the bench in the 60th minute and proceeded to score the only goal of the match.

But his international career was short-lived. He played only four games in total for the Socceroos - two of those in full internationals. His other A game was against Hong Kong in 1976.

5. Tarek Elrich gets a Socceroo call-up at 28 (2015)

Elrich's story is one of persistence and determination.

The defender came desperately close to making his Australia debut as a 22-year-old in 2009, in an AFC Asian Cup qualifying game against Indonesia, but after being included in the squad he was an unused substitute.

But he never stopped trying to get back there during A-League stints with Newcastle Jets, Western Sydney Wanderers and Adelaide United.

Finally, Ange Postecoglou called Elrich up in 2015 and he made his debut against Macedonia.

He went on to make two more appearances for his country and no doubt those jumpers are among his most prized possessions. He wouldn't have given up on adding to them, either.

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4 min read
Published 19 March 2017 at 4:51pm
By Greg Prichard