COMMENT: Who would Australian national team coach Pim Verbeek pick first for his 23-man World Cup squad?
As the 2010 finals in South Africa rapidly approach, many people will be speculating about which players Verbeek takes.
We know there will be at least a handful who will be picked no questions asked, but just who would the Dutch tactician put down first on his team sheet.
A player with the capabilities of Harry Kewell would always get a look in with most managers around the world but the fact he is not reliable in regards to fitness would have some looking the other way.
The leadership qualities and defensive attributes of Kewell’s Galatasaray teammate Lucas Neill may influence Verbeek to write his name down first but Neill’s habit of giving away meaningless free-kicks and his lack of match time in the past few months could prevent the coach from doing that.
Scott Chipperfield’s experience and versatility and his ability to score from defence must be taken into account whilst Mark Bresciano’s work on the ball and from set-piece stoppages provides another avenue to goal which is absolutely paramount for a team with no star strikers.
His late runs in to the box are hard to defend and his timing and power with his headers has become a trademark of his game. He would have to be a major contender for Verbeek’s first picked player as would Blackburn Rovers midfielder Brett Emerton but his limited time out on the pitch this season would have national team officials remaining cautious.
So by process of elimination, it leaves us with one name – Mark Schwarzer.
His form in recent seasons at club level defies his years of age and when he steps out for Australia, he is always at the top of his game. He has the most international caps to his name and his will to win is second to none.
Time and again the 194cm, 37-year old gloveman has saved his side from conceding goals with brilliantly timed saves and blocks and his ability in penalty shoot-outs is of the highest quality.
Schwarzer’s name must be on every team sheet that Verbeek signs in between now and the end of the world’s biggest sporting event which wraps up on July 11, hopefully with the Sydney-born shot-stopper leading his country to at least a Round of 16 placing.