The Uncapped XI: Socceroos' best of the rest - 2018 edition

It’s that time of year again when we select a rather unique group: the best Australian players yet to make their debut for the Socceroos.

Deng De Silva Petratos

(Left to right) Thomas Deng, Daniel De Silva and Dimitri Petratos Source: Getty Images

Depending on your view, it's either a good list to be on or a bad one, with much of that determined by which age bracket you fall into.

With a World Cup coming up in six months, it's only fair to cast an eye as wide as possible.

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Last year's list proved a rich breeding ground of call-ups, with five players winning international selection under Ange Postecoglou in the coming calendar year.



Danny Vukovic, Matt Jurman, Dylan McGowan, Awer Mabil and Mustafa Amini all made national squads (even if not all gained minutes - keeping them eligible for this year).

The rules were clear: a player capped for any senior international was automatically excluded, even if he'd managed only a cap or two.

However, it rules plenty of players "in" contention who have made squads but haven’t reached the field of play, which is every player's dream – and ties that player to the Socceroos.

Without further ado, meet Australia’s Uncapped XI for 2018.

Goalkeeper

Danny Vukovic, 32 (Genk)

Now established as the Socceroos’ third-choice goalkeeper, Vukovic should go to his first World Cup in June.

However, he remains uncapped, and it probably won't be until a low-key friendly that he gets his long-overdue chance between the posts.

Defenders

Left-back: Connor O’Toole, 20 (Brisbane Roar)

A massive bolter, but wins selection primarily because there's so few Australian left-backs of quality (with those who are capped already).

Hasn't put a foot wrong since snatching Corey Brown's place – even Avraam Papadopoulos has been gushing with his praise.

It seems folly to have somebody so fresh in this squad but the mitigating circumstances give him the nod.

Has also performed extremely well for the under-age national teams and is perhaps unlucky to be the same age as Alex Gersbach.

Centre-back: Aleksandar Jovanovic, 28 (Jeju United)

Having a clutch of decent centre-halves – primarily Trent Sainsbury, Matthew Spiranovic, Matt Jurman, Milos Degenek and Bailey Wright – means the clamour for new faces hasn't been massive.

But Jovanovic is becoming the new Nicky Carle: the player who everyone wanted to see but couldn't get a run.

At 28, he must surely be worth a look at, given his impressive CV in Europe and Asia.

Centre-back: Kenny Dougall, 24 (Sparta Rotterdam)

Continues to start in the Eredivisie, a league that is of a higher standard than the A-League, albeit with one of the smaller teams – which should give him plenty of practice against some brilliant attacking players.

Will get a chance with the Socceroos eventually; just needs to make it count when he does.

Right-back: Thomas Deng, 20 (Melbourne Victory)

Has been a superb addition to the Victory defence after his year abroad with Ajax’s youth team, starring as a centre-half and even filling in as a left-back, even though he'd rather be on the other side.

Ticks all the boxes to be a future Socceroo and has a massive upside.



Midfielders

Holding midfielder: Brandon O'Neill, 23 (Sydney FC)

Rising with such force that O’Neill is a lock to be called up in 2018 – and probably should already be in the squad.

Aaron Mooy may be the premium ball-playing midfielder of his generation but O’Neill is the dark horse sneaking through on the inside.

 

Clubs across Europe will soon be jostling for his signature but Sydney won't want to lose a player destined for a bigger stage.

Would fit neatly in the Socceroos' midfield with Mooy and Mile Jedinak.

Central midfielder: Jimmy Jeggo, 25 (Sturm Graz)

Called up to the squad recently and still mentioned as a genuine option, Jeggo is certainly turning heads with his displays for Sturm Graz.

With a bit of luck, and a strong finish to the season in Austria, anything could happen for the ex-Adelaide United star – including a rumoured move to England.

Attacking midfielder: Danny De Silva, 20 (Central Coast Mariners)

The next big thing in Australian football has been the next big thing for a while – but he finally seems to be delivering on his much-vaunted promise. What a great decision to move to Central Coast Mariners.

We're still waiting to see just how high his ceiling is, but the flashes and glimpses are becoming more and more frequent.



Hasn't always responded well to the hype surrounding his undoubted talent, so we ought to keep a lid on things while we can. It won't be long before it blows off.

Attackers

Left wing: Dimitri Petratos, 25 (Newcastle Jets)

Can't fault his performances for the Jets this season and he's proving his worth as a late-maturing player.

Having already starred at Brisbane Roar and Newcastle, Asian clubs will be circling on him soon.

The Socceroos? Plenty reckon he's a dark horse.

With his stocky build and low centre of gravity, he brings some rat-cunning to any front third.

International football is a different beast, however, and he'd take time to adjust. But he does makes things happen.

Right wing: Awer Mabil, 22 (Pacos de Ferreira)

Nudged out by Bruce Kamau in this list last year, Mabil is straining at the leash to get the call up.

He will inevitably wear the green and gold one day – and was called up to the squad to face Honduras last November.



Has an explosive nature that the Socceroos have lacked in recent years.

Pleasingly, he's getting lots of football in Portugal, on the back of a full season with Danish club Esbjerg. Can't do much more for now.

Striker: Brandon Borrello, 22 (Kaiserslautern)

Back on the list for the second straight year, Borrello is in a tricky position – he's still behind Tomi Juric and Jamie Maclaren on most metrics (despite Maclaren's horror year at Darmstadt) and the presence of Tim Cahill pushes Borrello back again.

Nathan Burns and Adam Taggart could complicate his desire to be capped, too.

Not unforeseeable that he'll be on this list next year. Or will Deni Juric feature 12 months on from now?

Bench

Forward - Andrew Nabbout, 25 (Newcastle Jets)

A freak season with the Newcastle Jets has been followed by another ripper, meaning Nabbout has to be included in this conversation.  A senior call-up for Lebanon seemed more likely than for Australia but that's all changed now. Considering his career was going nowhere two years ago, it's a real credit to his hard work. Anthony Carter's move to Benfica makes him worth following, too.

Midfield - Riley McGree, 19 (Newcastle Jets)

Called up into the Socceroos camp at the age of 18 – but not capped – and so he still qualifies. Has all the attributes to make a future national team player. Youngsters of his ilk have become frighteningly rare and thus he has to be considered right in the mix. Russia 2018 will come too soon but four more years should do wonders for his development. It's also far too early to include names like Sebastian Pasquali, Jacob Italiano and Jordan Lyden.

Midfield – Ryan Edwards, 24 (Partick Thistle)

Cracked this squad last season – also on the bench – and was called up to the Socceroos in March 2017. But since he didn't get on the pitch, he remains eligible. Lots of midfield depth means he'll have to get moving if he wants to make a dent at international level. Included ahead of Luke Brattan, who we still hold a flickering hope for. Is Steven Urgarkovic unlucky to miss out again?

Defender - Tomislav Mrcela, 27 (Jeonnam Dragons)

Has been in squad with the Socceroos and from all accounts didn't look out of place. Like Jovanovic, he possibly suffers from there not being a clamour for his kind. But anyone who has established themselves in Korea ought to be looked at. We'll sit on social media favourite Nathaniel Atkinson until he's got more experience.

Goalkeeper - Paul Izzo, 22 (Adelaide United)

Never is there a dull moment when Izzo is around. That's not always a good quality for a goalkeeper but at 22, he's made a pretty significant splash in the A-League and will only get better and better. Is three years younger than Mat Ryan – and would probably have to wait for Ryan to hang up the boots to get a look in as the Socceroos' number one. But he’s one player who won't die wondering and has mostly looked wonderful this season.


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8 min read
Published 2 January 2018 at 12:44pm
By Sebastian Hassett