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Feb 4, 2013

Socceroos spots up for grabs v Romania

With a strong supporting cast already assembled, Socceroos hopefuls will use the friendly against Romania to push for lead roles in the final act of Australia's World Cup qualifying campaign.

Close to a full-strength Australian squad has assembled in Malaga, Spain for Wednesday's (Thursday morning AEDT) match, the Socceroos' final hit-out before next month's qualifier against Oman in Sydney.

Having widened his selection base by picking a youthful and inexperienced squad for December's East Asian Cup, Socceroos coach Holger Osieck will be looking to fine-tune his first team against 33rd-ranked Romania.

And there still looks to be several spots up for grabs leading into the business end of qualifying for Brazil 2014.

While captain Lucas Neill will figure against Romania, despite doubts over his club future, he is suspended for the Oman game on March 26.

That will leave the likes of Rhys Williams, Robert Cornthwaite and Ryan McGowan pushing their claims against Romania.

"There's good opportunity for centre backs at the moment," said Chunnam Dragons defender Cornthwaite, who has impressed since earning a last-minute call-up in November's friendly win over South Korea.

"It's a competitive position, so when you get your chance you're going to really have to take it."

Holland-based duo Michael Zullo and Jason Davidson appear in a head-to-head battle for the left back position while fringe players Nikita Rukavytsya and Mathew Leckie will look to impress among established attackers including Brett Holman, Mark Bresciano, Alex Brosque and Robbie Kruse.

Osieck will be without midfield duo Mile Jedinak and Tommy Oar, who were both ruled out to injury, with Melbourne Victory's Mark Milligan a late call-up to the squad.

Ever-reliable veterans Mark Schwarzer and Luke Wilkshire return but Tim Cahill has been left out to focus on pre-season training with the New York Red Bulls.

The sides have never met and Romania, ranked three places higher than Australia, are sure to prove a stern test based on their strong form in European World Cup qualifying.

The side, coached by former player Victor Piturca, won its opening three games before losing 4-1 to a star-studded Netherlands side in October.

But they come into the match on the back of a 4-1 friendly loss to Poland in Malaga on Saturday and are missing key attacker Ciprian Marica and goalkeeper Bogdan Lobont through injury.

Australia sit second, equal on points with Iraq and Oman and eight points behind runaway leaders Japan, in the final stage of Asian qualifying.

Only the top two sides are guaranteed a spot at Brazil 2014.

Possible Socceroos team: Mark Schwarzer (gk), Michael Zullo, Lucas Neill (capt), Robert Cornthwaite, Rhys Williams, Luke Wilkshire, James Holland, Mark Bresciano, Brett Holman, Robbie Kruse, Alex Brosque.

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