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Late bloomer Mulenga comes of age at CHAN


A-League moves on from Verbeek sledge

It was a most unflattering assessment - then-national coach Pim Verbeek's assertion that training in Europe was better than playing in the A-League.

That statement, and a couple of rancid performances by A-League selections in national colours at the time, have stuck ever since.

It meant the A-League became the Socceroo source of last resort.

But Verbeek said that five seasons ago.

Has the A-League in season eight graduated to a point where Holger Osieck should look deeper and take more of a punt on the emerging talent there?

On evidence so far, player standards have taken another leap this season.

Footballing styles are clearly more multi-textured and mature than in season three.

For those playing elsewhere, circumstances have changed.

Current Socceroos have taken Middle East oil dollars for club football of a questionable standard.

Osieck admits this is less than ideal.

Fewer Australians are involved regularly at the highest level in Europe.

All while there is an exciting underbelly of young players - including some in positions the Socceroos lack depth - crying out to be fast-tracked from the A-League.

The problem left-back position? Three possible options - for now and the future - are on display weekly in the A-League.

Melbourne Heart youngster Aziz Behich and Central Coast's experienced Josh Rose have been consistently excellent for a season and a half.

Newcastle's Craig Goodwin was arguably man of the match in the Del Piero-Heskey showdown last weekend.

He has played a handful of A-League games, including starring on debut for Melbourne Heart last season.

Clearly he relishes the big occasion. How would he go in a Socceroos shirt?

Holding or central midfield? Brisbane Roar's Erik Paartalu is strong, skilful, and box-to-box.

Western Sydney Wanderers' Aaron Mooy - just 22 - also looks ready.

He breaks down attacks wonderfully. His vision is a delight.

The Mariners' Tom Rogic is just 19, but is an elite attacking talent with balance and poise on the ball. He too is worth blooding now.

Melbourne Heart coach John Aloisi knows what it's like to play at the highest level overseas and for his country.

While loath to make blanket assertions about the A-League as a Socceroo source, he says at least at his club there are options Osieck should look at.

"I don't really know how the overseas players are going or where they're playing exactly," Aloisi said.

"But looking at some of our players, Aziz Behich - I can't see why he shouldn't be given a go pretty soon.

"A lot of people say he's a winger converted to a left-back. Defensively, he's been very good."


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