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Fantasy Focus

Neill to lead Socceroos against NZ, Serbia

The absence of a host of the Socceroos' big names for next month's friendlies against New Zealand and Serbia has opened the door for some fresh faces to signal their value for the upcoming World Cup campaign.

Coach Holger Osieck on Tuesday named a 23-man squad to face the All Whites in Adelaide next Sunday and Serbia in Melbourne two days later, with the likes of Tim Cahill, Harry Kewell, Mark Schwarzer and David Carney missing due to concerns over injuries and workload.

That allowed for several surprise inclusions, with Osieck naming European-based young guns Michael Zullo and James Troisi among veterans Lucas Neill, Brett Emerton and Luke Wilkshire.

Australia's qualifying campaign for the 2014 World Cup begins in September and Osieck says next month's games present an opportunity for a host of players who impressed him on a recent scouting mission in Europe.

"There's definitely some interesting players on the list, players I want to see who should be given the opportunity to show their potential if they are up to standard for the Socceroos," Osieck said.

"I used the time after our game in Germany (Australia's 2-1 win in March) to stay in Europe to do some scouting and I watched a couple of these guys and the product is here ... I hope the boys will meet our expectations."

Zullo, 22, joined Dutch club FC Utrecht along with former Brisbane Roar teammates Tommy Oar and Adam Sarota last year and has impressed Osieck since returning from a lengthy injury lay-off.

"I think he has good potential, I like him," Osieck said.

"He is a very busy little player on the left flank and he brings in a lot of pace ... I can already say that I will try him on that left fullback position and we'll see how he handles it."

Troisi, 22, also impressed the German coach at a training camp held in Duisburg prior to the Socceroos' stunning friendly win over Germany.

"He was lacking in match practice but I could see already he's got something," Osieck said of Troisi, who was also coming off injury interruptions with Turkish club side Kayserispor.

Others to earn recalls included Japanese-based strikers Josh Kennedy and Alex Brosque, both unavailable for January's Asian Cup due to injury, as well as Middlesbrough defender Rhys Williams, who has not played since injury cut short his dreams of playing at last year's World Cup.

Melbourne's Archie Thompson received his first call-up in more than a year, with Osieck expecting the striker's match fitness from the Asian Champions League to be an asset.

Schwarzer's absence, due to groin surgery, has left a three-way battle for the gloves between Borussia Dortmund and former Victory youngster Mitchell Langerak, Nathan Coe and Reading's Adam Federici, who will join the squad after next Monday's Championship playoff with Swansea for a spot in next season's English Premier League.

Asian Cup squad members Luke Wilkshire, Brett Holman, Sasa Ognenovski, Matt McKay and Robbie Kruse were all included while Osieck said Neill was determined to play despite missing the latter part of the Turkish season with a groin injury.

"If he is in the position to play two games in that short period for 90 minutes remains to be seen but he's one of the perfect examples that he's very desperate to play for Australia," Osieck said of the Galatasaray star.


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