Six burning questions about the upcoming Socceroos squad

With Bert van Marwijk set to name his first Socceroos squad since taking over as coach in January, we take a look at six burning questions.

1. Which young players, if any, will he select?

There are numerous young players who are starting to push their case for Socceroos selection at the right time. 

The most exciting of which is 19-year-old Melbourne City winger Daniel Arzani. 

Arzani is one of the most exciting young talents Australia has had in some time, and brings a confidence and ability to dribble pass defenders that the Socceroos have sorely lacked since Harry Kewell.

However, the youngster is yet to complete a full 90 minutes in the A-League this season and with just four months until the World Cup, van Marwijk would be right to be hesitant.

Other potential debutants include Newcastle Jets pair Andrew Nabbout and Dimitri Petratos, Cental Coast Mariners star Daniel De Silva and Kaiserlautern's Brandon Borrello, formerly of Brisbane Roar. 

Nabbout, 25, has nine goals and seven assists in 21 appearances, including a world-class strike against Western Sydney Wanderers. 

Petratos, also 25, has eight goals and seven assists in 20 matches and has been one of the keys to a revitalised Jets side that sits comfortably in second spot on the A-League ladder.  

Attacking midfielder Daniel de Silva, 20, has been less prolific, with just three goals and one assist in 18 appearances for the struggling Central Coast Mariners.

However, there is no doubt he's one of Australia's great young prospects and will likely be a regular member in the future.

Meanwhile, versatile attacker Brandon Borrello, 22, has impressed in Germany's second division with Kaiserslautern since breaking into the first team in November.

The former Roar man has played in a variety of positions while still managing two goals and four assists in 11 starts.

2. Will Brad Jones finally return?

Jones was constantly overlooked by former coach Ange Postecoglou.

Only once was he called up for a friendly against Ecuador where he played 30 minutes after Mat Ryan had been substituted at half-time and his replacement Mitch Langerak was sent off after 15 minutes. 

While he was snubbed by Postecoglou, Jones has achieved title success in the Netherlands with Feyenoord. 

Australia has always had depth in goalkeepers, but it seems questionable that a player who was in the Eredivisie team of the year and was playing in the UEFA Champions League, against teams like Manchester City, continued to miss out on selection. 

But the early signs are good for Jones, with van Marwijk going on Dutch TV to express his surprise at his absence under Postecoglou. 

3. Will Tim Cahill be recalled despite no playing time? What about others not getting playing time?

Cahill has not played 90 minutes once this season.

The 38-year-old left Melbourne City in December 2017, where he was restricted to limited minutes off the bench and went nearly seven weeks without a club, before signing with Millwall in the Championship. 

Since joining at the end of January he's managed just 16 minutes for the South London based side. 

Cahill is by far Australia's greatest ever performer on the big stage.

He's scored more goals than anyone for the national team and should he go to Russia, he will have a great chance to become only the fourth player to have scored at four straight World Cups - joining Pele, Uwe Seeler and Mirolsav Klose.

But the question must be swirling around van Marwijk's mind - how much can Cahill still realistically give at 38-years-old? 

Cahill is not the only Socceroo in trouble due to a lack of game time. 

The following players from the last squad have played 270 minutes or less for their clubs since the start of the year: 

Matthew Jurman (0 minutes)

Trent Sainsbury (0 minutes)

Craig Goodwin (65 minutes)

Milos Degenek (90 minutes)

Mitchell Langerak (90 minutes)

Tom Rogic (178 minutes)

Mathew Leckie (250 minutes)

Tomi Juric (264 minutes)

Ryan McGowan (270 minutes) 

Some of these players are affected by their seasons starting later as is the case for the Asian-based players like Langerak and Degenek, while some have been injuries (Sainsbury, Jurman, Rogic) and others had a long winter break as is the case in some parts of Europe (Leckie, Juric). 

But the fact that these players have not been playing regular match competitive football would be a concern to van Marwijk and could open the door for others who have.   

4. What will he be looking for in a striker - Australia's problem position?

Since the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, Australia has scored just eight goals in six matches. This includes facing teams that are not particularly strong defensively like Thailand, Syria and Honduras. 

Despite all the talk of Postecoglou's attacking football, it was far from effective in producing actual goals, particularly in the latter stages of of his tenure. 

It seems Australia still has a problem up front. Against Honduras all three goals came from set-pieces scored by defensive midfielder Mile Jedinak. 

While against Syria at home, Cahill scored both goals but his lack of game time is a worrying sign and surely van Marwijk has to look at other options.

Tomi Juric - Australia's only regular centre-forward over the past few years - has only managed eight goals in 32 appearances for the Socceroos.

At club level this season he's been solid with eight goals in 23 appearances, as well as five assists for a struggling Luzern side in Switzerland.  

But there seems to be few alternative options. 

The closest seems to be Jamie Maclaren, who had a torrid time in Germany's second division before moving out to Hibernian in Scotland where he's managed just one goal in five appearances since arriving in January. 

Look local, you say? The top five A-League goalscorers are all foreign players unfortunately. 

5. Where is van Marwijk looking? Does he respect the A-League?

Australia's last Dutch coach, Pim Verbeek, infamously said "if you train for three weeks with Nurnberg or with Karlsruhe, I have to be very honest, I still think that’s better than playing A-League games.” 

Postecoglou showed much more faith in the local game and - at least some of the time - called up high-performing A-League players over European based bench-warmers. 

What van Marwijk values will be a very interesting assessment of the quality of the league, which is already struggling for so many reasons as it fights to remain respected by Australian football fans.

So far the signs are not all that great for locals hoping to break through. 

"I saw four games, one (youth league) and three in the A-League ... I saw one good game. I was positively surprised at the level of that game," van Marwijk said.

6. Will he risk players coming back from injury?

One of van Marwijk's biggest challenges will be how to get the best out of both star players - Aaron Mooy and Tom Rogic. 

No doubt he'll want them to form a formidable partnership, but Rogic - who has suffered a string of injury issues - has just come back from 70 days out and is yet to play 90 minutes this year. 

Mooy, after playing a sizeable amount of minutes for Huddersfield over the last two seasons, has also succumbed to a knee injury.

While he will be back by the time of Australia's upcoming friendlies, van Marwijk will be cautious not to further any damage that could see the Socceroos midfield maestro miss out on Russia 2018. 

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7 min read
Published 2 March 2018 at 2:18pm
By Nick Stoll