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Posted by Paddy Higgs on 06/03/2010

Tim Cahill was one player to grab his chance as the Socceroos surprised many at the 2006 World Cup. Paddy Higgs discusses who Australia's wild cards could be in South Africa.

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.


Posted by anonymous on 06/03/2010

ohhh dattos

Posted by Dave on 06/03/2010

Lets hope someone can, otherwise I don't think we can make it past 3 matches. Good food for thought tho :)

Posted by Jesse Wray on 06/03/2010

I agree that Ruka probably has the qualities to change the game off the bench, simply because of his sheer pace. Changing up from the slow, holding up play of Josh Kennedy to the speed of Ruka will undoubtedly be difficult for the opposition adjust to.
But I still get the feeling that Ruka is a year or two away (or perhaps a good Asian Cup campaign away) from having the confidence and belief to make any meaningful impact in high-level international matches.
Someone who won't neccessairly change a game at the World Cup, but should do surprisingly well if given the game time, is Mile Jedinak. I feel he's moved in leaps and bounds since his move to Europe, and is perhaps three to four times better than he was at Central Coast. I love the way he goes about his job in that holding mid role. Good physical presence too.

Posted by Graham Dorrans on 06/03/2010

I really like the look of Rukavytsya and Vidosic and wish them all the best. They bring something that is essential to this campaign - youth and the hope that comes with it.

Something that's been on my mind is that Cahill is going to be heavily marked one would think - if due to this he's injured who is capaple of playing that role? Is Ruka a chance or is one out up front his best fit?

Good article Paddy - keep 'em coming.

Posted by Woody on 06/03/2010

Enjoying your articles Paddy. I'm looking forward to seeing some of your young kids taking on the might of England in the later stages of the world cup.

Posted by claire on 06/04/2010

It's amazing what people can achieve (look at Sam Stosur) when everything comes together. Yes we need that "X" factor and maybe one of these young players will seize their opportunity and supply it. Go Australia

Posted by gnarley on 06/05/2010

I watched the 2nd half of Germany v Bosnia H, & the scale of what we will be up against became evident. The options the Germans have coming off the bench illustrated the depth they have, & with that little guy Marin, for instance, spell a receipe for disaster against the likes of Craig Moore, etc.

If we are to get something from the German fixture, it would be from a Pim Verbeek master plan, coz there is no way we are going to play Germany off the park.

Posted by luda hoe on 06/06/2010

Vince Grella is a butcher...what a disgrace. He should be on two red cards in the last three FRIENDLIES. Get this guy off the field before he ends someone's career!

Posted by kiususu on 06/11/2010

Manuia ou faiva Tim Cahill....Alofas from all your fans in your native island - Samoa...Do us a favour and kiususu in one of your have been blessed!!!

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Paddy Higgs is a sports journalist and editor in Melbourne, Australia. He has contributed to a range of football magazines and websites, having followed the Socceroos from their years of World Cup heartbreak to the side's coming of age in 2006 and its bid to become an Asian powerhouse.

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