Youth finally blooming for Socceroos
Socceroos coach Holger Osieck is set to really give youth a chance following Australia's much-needed 2-1 victory over Iraq in their World Cup qualifier in Doha.
The familiar names of Tim Cahill and Archie Thompson graced the score sheet at Grand Hamad Stadium but Osieck was particularly heartened by the performance and attitude of the younger players.
Robbie Kruse showed he was fast becoming one of Australia's most valuable players, the Iraq team resorting to hacking down the elusive winger, while central defender Matthew Spiranovic barely put a foot wrong.
Tommy Oar, making his first appearance in a Socceroo shirt for 21 months, made every minute of his cameo count.
The 20-year-old delivered an inch-perfect cross for Thompson to head home the 84th-minute winner just five minutes after the little left-footer's introduction.
Not insignificantly, Osieck sent another youngster, James Holland, on in the dying minutes of the match despite having Mark Bresciano at his disposal.
The German, who has been criticised for not blooding more players, also praised the attitude of relative new boys Ryan McGowan and Adam Sarota in camp.
"So right now, all of a sudden, I have four or five players from a younger generation that knock at the door that are serious contenders for a spot in the first team," Osieck said.
The catalyst for the apparent blossoming of Australia's next generation has been them playing more often at club level in Europe this season.
Oar thought it was time for Osieck to usher in the next line of players in the lead-up to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
"I thought Robbie (Kruse) was amazing tonight," Oar said.
"I think there should have been 10 yellow cards against him for all the tackles.
"I think it's great that the young players are coming in and doing well.
"Hopefully, it will give him (Osieck) more encouragement to give more of the young players a go."
Brett Holman said the hunger of the fringe members in training had erased the slightest hint of complacency.
"It helps everyone to lift their game because there are players saying I want to be in the starting eleven," he said.
"It only helps for the starting players to lift their game and not drop off."
Osieck will have another opportunity to try out some fresh faces with skipper Lucas Neill and Carl Valeri both suspended for Australia's next World Cup qualifier in March against Oman in Sydney.
With Oman doing the Socceroos a favour by defeating Jordan, Australia's win against Iraq lifts them to second spot in their qualifying group on goal difference before a favourable run home.
"This is a big turning point for us," Socceroos goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer said.
"This is a massive, massive result."
Australia host Oman, Jordan and Iraq next year and have a testing away fixture against front-runners Japan.