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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 21, 2006

Viduka to captain Australia at World Cup

MELBOURNE, May 21 (Reuters) - Striker Mark Viduka has been handed the task of leading Australia at their first World Cup finals for 32 years.

The 30-year-old Middlesbrough forward was named captain of the Socceroos by coach Guus Hiddink on Sunday and said he was honoured to have been selected ahead of former skipper Craig Moore.

'To be honest, it was with mixed emotions because when he (Hiddink) told me he said I looked like a 60-year-old,' Viduka told reporters of the moment the Dutchman broke the news.

Viduka was handed the captain's armband during Australia's qualification campaign last year after Newcastle United defender Moore was ruled out of action with a hamstring injury.

Moore was included in the 23-man squad for the finals announced earlier this month but Hiddink opted to stick with former Leeds and Glasgow Celtic striker Viduka for the job of leading the Aussies in their Group F campaign.

'It's a difficult situation to be in because we roomed together at the Australia Institute of Sport and we've known each other a long time.

'We both enjoy leading the team but I think whether it was him or me we would have been happy for each other. The main thing is we're all one team.'

Hiddink said Viduka deserved to retain the captaincy as he had led by example since taking over from Moore in September.

'He did very well in the qualification rounds and he took his responsibilities well when we came together,' Hiddink said. 'He worked very hard not just on himself but also with the team and it's good to have him as captain.

'I'm happy Craig Moore is in the team and he was an experienced captain, but he has to get his role in the team first.'

Hiddink also said he was concerned about Harry Kewell's absence from the early stages of Australia's preparations.

The Liverpool striker is recuperating in England after hobbling out of the FA Cup final against West Ham earlier this month with a groin strain, the latest in a long line of niggling injuries.

Kewell will link up with his team mates next week during a training camp in Holland ahead of friendlies against the Netherlands on June 4 and Liechtenstein on June 7.

Hiddink said Kewell's absence from preparations for Thursday's friendly with Greece in Melbourne was a blow.

'I'm a little bit concerned about how his development will be. He can be fit just in time for the first game but what we're now doing is to build up the focus and working on tactics and strategy and when a player is not available it's a pity.

'He will recover I think but it's a pity he's not starting with the full 23.'

Hiddink confirmed Everton midfielder Tim Cahill would also miss the friendly against European champions Greece at the Melbourne Cricket Ground but added that his knee injury was progressing well.

'Tim Cahill is here doing his own programme and we hope to have him fit as soon as possible but apparently not this week.'

Australia will face champions Brazil, Japan and Croatia in Group F in the finals, which start in Germany on June 9.

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