As much as fans love to see a bolter named in a squad, new coach Bert van Marwijk has one clear objective when it comes to his very short-term role in charge of the national team – and that’s to get the Socceroos out of this World Cup group with France, Denmark, and Peru.

The new, temporary boss clearly believes that the tried and tested players that went through the gruelling Asian World Cup Qualifying stage are the bulk of squad who he thinks can get the job done. And who could disagree when the Dutchman has analysed the Socceroos twice when playing against them with the Saudi Arabian national team - as well as having only limited preparation time before heading off to Russia?

Last week he named 23 of the preliminary30-man squad from Ange Postecoglou’s last two matches in charge against Honduras, which gives you an indication that there is no time to experiment, and 22 of the 23 who played in the qualifiers. Seven fringe players have been dropped and six additional players have been called upon, but only three of those have yet to make their Socceroos debut.

Table courtesy Tony Persoglia, @dalmanac

Van Marwijk may be thinking that bringing in new players for the two friendlies actually hinders his chances of progression to the knockout stage of the World Cup, as these games are his only real chance ahead of the pre-World Cup camp fors preparation to mould the existing players together and set up the way he wants to play.

He doesn’t have sufficient time to test and see if a certain player can fit into this team, unless it’s under exceptional circumstances - for example, if a particular individual is performing to an elite level in their domestic league, or he sees something in these upcoming friendlies that suggests they could add something to the Socceroos.

Of those he has added in to the 29-man squad, a sprinkle of them are returning players such as Brad Jones and Josh Brillante. They have gone away and worked on their craft and deservedly earned their places back in the national team. That leaves the 'new' selections of Dimi Petratos, Andrew Nabbout, and Aleksandar Susnjar as the potential World Cup bolters.

Will they be selected in the 23-man squad for the World Cup? My guess is not all of them.

Typically, when a World Cup squad is announced there is normally a surprise or two, but in the Socceroos case, I can’t see there being too much disruption from the squad that has gone right through this qualifying campaign.

However, who did van Marwijk miss in his 29-man squad? Who are the other players who could lay claim to a place in Russia, even after these two March friendly matches? Here are my top three 'outside bolters' that van Marwijk and his selection team should consider. 

1. Brandon Borrello – FC Kaiserslautern, Germany

Right Midfielder/Left Midfielder/Striker

A player I would definitely be taking on the plane to Russia. Borrello is hitting the finest form of his career in a tough competition in Europe and will find himself unlucky to have not been picked in the current squad. So much has he impressed in recent times, clubs in the German Bundesliga are keeping tabs on him and are ready to pounce on his signature from his Bundesliga 2 side.

With three goals in his last four appearances for Kaiserslautern, one of those being a contender for goal of the season, I don’t know if there is an Australian player anywhere in the world more in-form then Borrello.

With the Socceroos needing more depth in the final third of the pitch, why not take an in-form attacker who can’t do any wrong at the moment?

Season Statistics 2017-18

  • 26 Appearances:  24 Bundesliga 2; 2 DFB Pokal
  • 3 Goals, 3 Assists

What can he bring?

Hitting form in a good quality league, versatile, and hungry to represent the Socceroos.

2. Kenny Dougall – Sparta Rotterdam (Netherlands)

Defensive Midfielder/Centre Back

A name that has gone under the radar of the Socceroos, but is making consistent appearances in the Dutch top flight Eredivisie, Dougall left Australia in 2014 after being on the youth team books at Brisbane Roar. In 2010, he won the Roar youth team Player of the Year award and then decided to make the move to the Dutch second division with Telstar in 2014.

After one season in the Second division he signed with Sparta Rotterdam in the Eredivisie and he has made over 20 appearances each year for the last three seasons.

As a first team regular and making consistent performances in one of the best leagues in Europe, his versatility could be a huge asset for the Socceroos. At 24 years old and a player familiar with the Dutch methods, this could be an outside bolter for Russia 2018.

Season Statistics 2017-18

  • 25 appearances:  25 Eredivisie
  • 1 goal

What can he bring?

Regular game time in a tough European league, versatile, understands the Dutch playing methods.

3. Luke Wilkshire – Sydney FC 

Right Back/Right Wingback

Having spent the bulk of his career playing in Europe, and particularly Russia where he spent eight seasons in three spells, 36-year old Wilkshire returned to Australia this season with Sydney FC after a free transfer from Dynamo Moscow. With 25 appearances across all competitions including the A-League, FFA Cup, and Asian Champions League, Wilkshire is arguably the form right back in Australia.

Of course, he is also an experienced World Cup campaigner, having taken part in Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010. Van Marwijk's compatriot, Guus Hiddink, described Wilkshire as one of the most technically gifted Australian players in the 2006 squad. 

Season Statistics 2017-18

  • 26 appearances:  20 A-League, 3 FFA Cup, 3 Asian Champions League

What can he bring?

In form, experienced, and knows how to get up and down the sideline in a position where the team needs more depth.

Categories: Analysis | Socceroos | World Cup

socceroos, brandon borrello, luke wilkshire, kenny dougall

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