THE fat has been trimmed on the Socceroos squad, finally leaving 23 names at Pim Verbeek’s disposal.
A glance through the squad reveals many of the names that propelled Australia to the verge of a quarter-final spot in Germany in 2006.
Four years on, their names are now far more familiar to most rival coaches and players. They are unlikely to sneak under the guard this time around.
So who are the jokers in the 2010 Socceroos pack?
You know the type. The sort of player who can be introduced off the bench when the game needs a spark.
An “X factor”, if you will.
In 2006, Guus Hiddink had an arsenal of secret weapons capable of turning a match on its head.
Who could forget the way Tim Cahill popped up, jack-in-the-box style, to score a double in the come-from-behind win over the Japan?
Or the havoc Josh Kennedy caused the Japanese after his introduction? Or how Harry Kewell ghosted in to prod home against Croatia?
Who is capable of providing that in 2010?
The options appear thinner than last time out, perhaps more to the change of approach under Verbeek than anything.
The Dutchman is the pragmatic type, and will be counting on his side to grind out results rather than pin their hopes on the miraculous.
But Verbeek has still selected a couple of wildcards he may choose to play if his side has to chase a goal.
They may be just getting to know a razor and possess just nine caps between them, but attackers Dario Vidosic and Nikita Rukavytsya appear most likely to fit that description in South Africa.
The duo possess a quality Kewell wishes he still had and Craig Moore never did: sheer pace.
Rukavytsya was one of the few players to emerge with an enhanced reputation after the ill-fated Beijing Olympics campaign, and he is fresh from a goal-heavy loan at Belgium club KSV Roeselare.
A-League fans will remember a handful of the 22-year-old’s strikes for former club Perth Glory, where he left defenders for dead with his speed.
Rukavytsya’s finishing was a criticism of him then, but he appears to have improved on that in his time in Europe.
Vidosic is another player not short of a yard.
Said to be the player who benefited when Rhys Williams’ injury kept him out of the final 23, the 23-year-old FC Nurnberg spieler offers Verbeek options up front and across the midfield through his versatility.
Vidosic’s best position has ultimately not been determined in his limited outings for Australia, but his reaction and finish to put Australia back on level terms against New Zealand on May 28 was first-class.
To expect game-changing contributions from such a raw duo is, of course, unfair.
But they are now World Cup players, and are so by merit. Youth and inexperience will be no excuse come June 12.
If nothing else, Australia’s 2006 World Cup campaign showed that a match can turn on a moment.
Now, the likes of Vidosic and Rukavytsya have the chance to follow Cahill into the country’s football folklore.