New Socceroos head coach Bert van Marwijk has named his first preliminary squad in the build up to the FIFA World Cup in Russia.
With 100 days to go until Australia begin their campaign in Russia, van Marwijk has selected a 29-player preliminary squad for this month’s international friendly fixtures against Norway in Oslo, and Colombia in London.
Twenty-two of the players involved with Australia’s Inter-Confederation play-off against Honduras last November have been selected in the first squad of van Marwijk’s reign, while seven new or returning players have been added to the Socceroos mix.
Sutherland Shire’s Alex Gersbach, who now plays his football with Racing Club de Lens in France after a switch from Norwegian side Rosenborg BK to get more game time and keep in World Cup calculations, has been rewarded for his move.
Gersbach told the Leader from France that he had been hopeful of being involved in van Marwijk’s first squad.
“I’ve been involved a lot over the past two years and I want to maintain my spot in the squad,” he said.
“The squad will be trimmed next week though so I’m hoping to be named in that squad, we’ll see how it goes.
“If I get the chance to play in the friendlies that would be a great opportunity.”
Gersbach said his loan move to Lens in the French Ligue 2 has gone smoothly.
“I’m really enjoying things in France and at Lens,” he said.
“The move was about playing more regular football in order to improve and be in good shape.
“We haven’t had the best results but I’m feeling good physically after playing a lot of football again
“Of course the Socceroos is on your mind, but it’s mainly about playing as much as possible for me.”
If there's a message between the lines of van Marwijk's first Socceroos squad, it's that the World Cup door is still ajar for outsiders willing to step up.
Van Marwijk offered a hat-tip to the A-League in his extended line-up for this month's friendlies, with the inclusion of uncapped local duo Andrew Nabbout and Dimi Petratos and recall of Josh Brillante.
Nabbout's preliminary selection caps an incredible week for the winger, whose outstanding form for Newcastle - including Saturday's top-shelf winner over Sydney FC - had earned the 25-year-old a transfer to Japanese Asian champions Urawa Red Diamonds.
His former Jets teammate Petratos will get a chance to state his case for an attacking role if he's named in next week's final squad for the tune-up clashes with Norway and Colombia.
For Sydney FC midfield mainstay Brillante, it's been a long time coming after more than three years in the wilderness.
His call-up was reward for two excellent seasons with Sydney FC. The defensive midfielder will provide competition for stalwarts Mark Milligan and Mile Jedinak in that role.
The squad also features veteran goalscorer Tim Cahill who has barely appeared for South London side Millwall since rejoining them a month ago.
Goalkeeper Brad Jones, defender James Meredith, and attacker Jamie Maclaren are among the capped Socceroos players to be included in the squad while uncapped 22-year-old defender Aleksandar Susnjar could receive his first senior international call-up.
Susnjar, who plays for FK Mlada Boleslav in Czech Republic, impressed in the heart of defence for Australia at January’s 2018 AFC U-23 Championship held in China.
“Since my appointment with the Socceroos, my staff, scouts and I have monitored over 100 Australian players in the Hyundai A-League, as well as in leagues across Europe and Asia,” van Marwijk said.
“We are pleased with the initial 29 players we have picked for our upcoming games against Norway and Colombia and will finalise the squad next week.
“There are still a couple of weeks before the group gathers in Oslo, so we will continue to monitor the health and fitness of all the players in the preliminary squad, as well as those on our longer list of potential World Cup squad members.
“Our upcoming matches against Norway and Colombia will provide a great chance for the players selected to press their claims for Russia, however the door remains ajar for all players not picked for the March window,” concluded van Marwijk.