Osieck continues Qantas Socceroos evolution

Qantas Socceroos head coach Holger Osieck has opened the door to the next generation of Australian players.

Qantas Socceroos head coach Holger Osieck has opened the door to the next generation of Australian players, naming an extended squad ahead for the next stage of 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

Osieck selected an extended 26-man train squad for the 2 June Friendly against Denmark, which will be cut to a 23-man squad for the final round of World Cup qualifiers against Oman, on 8 June, and Japan, on 12 June.

Whilst Osieck has retained the Qantas Socceroos- biggest names, he has also called up a number of younger European-based players, including the likes of Chris Herd, Robbie Kruse, Rhys Williams, Michael Zullo and striker Nikita Rukavytsya, aiming to discover which of them are ready to step up to senior international level.

Despite some recent off-field dramas, Herd has become an English Premier League for Aston Villa and after previously missing selection through injury, Osieck is keen to see what the 23-year-old can do.

“I have been in Europe for a few weeks and have had the chance to see [Chris] in a game against Sunderland,” Osieck said.

“I had him on the list for the last qualifiers in November but he was injured, so now he-s in again because he plays at a recent level and hopefully he can do a job for us.”

Rhys Williams, who has become increasingly important in midfield for Championship side Middlesbrough, is also given a chance, as Osieck looks to 23-year-old to define his role in the national side.

“Rhys has shown he can be a very valuable part of our group,” Osieck said. “He-s a very versatile player - and versatility can kill a player as well.

He needs a certain position and right now I see him in the right fullback position in our team. But he can also be an alternative in the centre of defence.”

But perhaps the most notable call-up is that of former Perth Glory forward Rukavytsya. Osieck-s stock of strikers is perhaps the weakest area of the Australian squad, so the possibility of Rukavytsya - currently getting game time as his German club side Hertha Berlin look to stave of relegation from the Bundesliga - fulfilling his massive potential is a huge bonus for the Qantas Socceroos.

“Nikita played regularly in the recent games for Hertha; I saw him play against Leverkusen and he was good enough to be included again.”

Osieck has based his stealth evolution of the Qantas Socceroos squad on a foundation of experienced performers, with an “intense chat” giving Harry Kewell a chance to prove his fitness after an early end to the Hyundai A-League season.

While a call-up of his Melbourne Victory teammate Archie Thompson was perhaps one of the biggest surprises in the squad, with Osieck looking to make the most of the striker-s ability to do the unexpected.

“it-s his unpredictability,” Osieck said. “He always does something unexpected which creates problems for the opponent. He came on when against Saudis when we were 2-1 down and changed the picture. He did exactly the things I expected of him.

“He-s still quick enough, he-s very smart and can take on players and confuse the defensive lines - he-s still good, I have to admit.”

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