Socceroos burning questions: Bert’s great Cahill dilemma
WITH the pool of potential Socceroos to play at the World Cup now reduced to 32, Bert van Marwijk has answered a range of questions.
But a number of discussions still remain regarding the final make up of Australia's final contingent to take to the park in Russia.
Young gun Daniel Arzani and veteran Tim Cahill have both jumped the first hurdle after hearing their names called out in Sydney on Monday morning.
Joining them in the squad is a name considerably less familiar to the Aussie footballing public, Croatian-born right back Fran Karacic.
Jamie Maclaren and Apostolos Giannou return to the fold after an absence at international level but, after nine forwards were named in the preliminary squad, it appears they'll have their work cut out for them in their quest to make the final 23 man squad.
These 32 players will be whittled down to "26 or 27" around May 14, according to the Dutchman, but until then here are six burning questions that remain surrounding the Socceroos personnel for Russia.
THE CAHILL DILEMMA
By Van Marwijk's own admission, Tim Cahill is "a special case."
The 38-year-old is a living legend of Aussie football, a decorated Socceroo and the nation's all-time leading scorer, as well as a player with a penchant for making the difference on the biggest of stages.
Cahill has never been to a World Cup and not scored. This campaign would be his fourth at the biggest tournament on the planet, and a goal would add him to a prestigious and exclusive club of players to have netted in four editions.
But while he's remarkably proven as a game changer when needed most, a worrying lack of football has surfaced genuine question marks around his selection.
A total of just 65 minutes game time since moving to Millwall in January - as well as a three-game suspension which cost him his final few club games of the season - has put Cahill's automatic selection in doubt. Even Van Marwijk hinted he had to consider leaving Australia's all-time leading scorer out of the final squad.
"I had a long conversation with Tim in Norway, and he is a special case. He is special in everything," Van Marwijk said.
"He is 38. He is one of the best ever for Australia. He is suspended and cannot play anymore. I have to make a decision whether to take him.
"He can make a difference. He is a player who will not be nervous to play in front of 80,000 people."
And that decision is one which could shape Australia's fortunes in Russia.
ARZANI GETS HIS CHANCE
Calls for young gun Daniel Arzani's inclusion in this squad have been near deafening.
After bursting onto the scene with Melbourne City this season, his sparkling form and attacking play have rocketed him into the limelight and now he'll get his chance to show Van Marwijk he's worthy of a spot at the World Cup.
"We knew him and before March he didn't play every week. 19 years just coming, he has to learn a lot. I didn't know him, now I have a lot of information," the Dutchman said
"I spoke to coaches he worked with, and now he's playing every week.
"He's a young player but he's a player who can make a difference. Maybe a world championship is too early for him. But I will not hesitate to nominate him if he can make a difference in the last 10 or 15 minutes."
Arzani would fill a similar role to Cahill in the squad - a bench player who can change a game late in the piece.
But contrastingly, the young star is unproven on the big stage and it may be "too early" for him to make the leap.
However, the fact that Van Marwijk has gone out of his way to learn more about the 19-year-old is a good sign, but he'll have an uphill battle to make the final 23-man squad considering the depth of attacking options who join him in the squad.
GIANNOU AND MACLAREN BACK, BUT WILL THEY SURVIVE THE CUT?
Both previously capped, strikers Apostolos Giannou and Jamie Maclaren are back from the international wilderness.
Remarkably different players, big man Giannou and speedy Maclaren have been brought back to add something going forward.
"You're talking about different styles," Van Marwijk said.
"Juric and Giannou they are very big. Some are very fast. Both strikers sometimes you need. I like playing with fast players especially offensive. But they have to fit together."
The pair are back, but they might not be there for long considering the established names they'll be competing with.
WILL A BIG MIDFIELD NAME MISS OUT?
Nine midfielders have been selected in the extended squad, albeit Josh Brillante has been selected as a potential makeshift full back (more on that later).
Each of the nine boast a pedigree at international level and a profile which would see them expected to be in and around the squad, but surely there's not enough space for every single one of them?
Premier League star Aaron Mooy is no doubt a lock, while Massimo Luongo, Jackson Irvine, captain Mile Jedinak and Tom Rogic are all crucial cogs - as was seen in the friendlies against Colombia and Norway.
Mark Milligan is ageing, but his versatility works in his favour, Robbie Kruse has hit form in Germany, while James Troisi has just been crowned an A-League champion.
There may not be enough space for them all.
WHO IS FRAN KARACIC?
Karacic joins Arzani as the only uncapped players in the 32.
A largely unknown quantity, Karacic plays his club football in Croatia with NK Lokomotiva. Plucked from relative obscurity, Van Marwijk revealed that his assistant Ante Milicic was instrumental in the 21-year-old's selection.
A Croatian under-21 international, it appears the youngster - who the manager pointed out has experience captaining his side - will align with Australia in lieu of his birth nation.
He's a proper right back, which is key in a squad that - by Van Marwijk's admission - isn't flush with depth in that position.
Perhaps he'll be a hidden gem, or potentially a fleeting hope.
BRILLANTE THE DEFENDER?
With the documented lack of quality at right back, the inclusion of Sydney FC midfielder Josh Brillante brings an interesting caveat.
Usually deployed centrally in midfield, Brillante has also played at full back at Socceroos level as well as at club level in his days with the Newcastle Jets.
"I took Brillante because maybe he can play at the right back position," Van Marwijk said, and perhaps that versatility will earn perhaps the least heralded member of the midfield cohort a berth in the final 23.