Wednesday, October 03, 2012
Fountain of youth dry in Australia, says coach Osieck
By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia's hopes of qualifying for a third successive World Cup must again rest on ageing shoulders because there are few young players pushing for selection, according to embattled coach Holger Osieck.
Osieck, under huge pressure after the Socceroos' stuttering start to the final round of Asian qualifying, has kept faith with Australia's core of World Cup veterans for the Socceroos' crucial away tie to Iraq on October 16.
Captain Lucas Neill, attacking midfielder Tim Cahill, and goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer are among eight players over 30 years old in the 22-man squad and will be relied upon to turn the Socceroos' fortunes around in the searing heat of Doha.
With Australia's seasoned campaigners failing to fire in two draws and a demoralising loss to 87th-ranked Jordan in Asia's Group B, Osieck has come under fire for failing to inject new blood to revive the team's flagging World Cup campaign.
But the 64-year-old German said he had little choice but to back his ageing brigade, given the selection cupboard was bare.
"I'm definitely a supporter of getting in fresh blood, however I can't find it at present. There are not too many young players who knock at the door and say 'I want to come in'," Osieck told reporters on a conference call on Wednesday after naming the team.
"The young ones who are pretty good and promising are already in the squad.
"Right now, there's no real pressure from other youngsters. Those who play in Europe don't make the first team and that is definitely what stops their development in a way."
Australia, currently ranked 25th in the world, sailed through the previous phase of qualifying but have hit a brick wall in the final round, escaping with a lucky home draw against group leaders Japan before scrounging a goalless draw away to Oman.
Their 2-1 defeat to Jordan ended the honeymoon for Osieck, who had hitherto drawn praise for his calm stewardship and emphasis on attacking play, in contrast to the stodgy, defensive game instilled by his unpopular predecessor Pim Verbeek.
The Socceroos farewelled a clutch of experienced players after the team's first-round exit from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but the next generation have struggled to fill their shoes while toiling for second-string teams in Europe.
Osieck, a former assistant coach to Franz Beckenbauer during Germany's 1990 World Cup triumph, said Australia's top domestic league was hardly helping his cause, given its scheduling was leaving players rusty and unfit for international duty at the sharp end of the season.
"The players have to play. Look at the domestic league, the break is way too long," he said of the A-league, which kicks off its eighth season this weekend.
"Now, it's already the final quarter of the year and they're just start their competitive playing. If things go wrong and (their teams) don't make the playoffs, their season is already over in early March.
"So in the time in between, what does it do to your development? You need to have a competitive environment and people here in Australia have to make sure they grant this more competitive environment.
"(But) to go to Europe is not the ideal solution if they don't play first-team football there.
"So we are in a kind of predicament here."
Australia are third in Group A with two points behind Japan (10) and Jordan (4).
The top two teams in each group book their places for the 2014 finals in Brazil, while the third-placed teams meet in a playoff before the winner of that tie plays the fifth-placed South American team for a place at the tournament.
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)