Qantas Socceroos coach Holger Osieck speaks exclusively to Michael Cockerill about the squad for next week's friendly match against South Korea.
Qantas Socceroos coach Holger Osieck speaks exclusively to Michael Cockerill about the squad for next week's friendly match against South Korea in Hwaseong, and clarifies the situation surrounding Richard Porta.
Q. There are five uncapped players in the squad. Is this the most experimental squad you've selected so far?
A. I didn't see them as being experimental. It's a good opportunity for the boys who have been around for quite some time but haven't been capped. They've been part of various squads, and now there's the opportunity to give them some playing time.
Q. There are five players from the Hyundai A-League. You've been around the country watching games, what are your general impressions. Has the league improved this season?
A. Actually I could really acknowledge some kind of boom going on. The crowds are rising, people are turning up in big numbers, which definitely does good to the game. Of course when the atmosphere is better, the incentive for the players is a good one. They get more challenged, and that definitely raises the level of play.
Q. So you've been impressed with the standard?
A. It was a pretty good start, we are still pretty fresh in the season. There have been a number of really excellent games, and the number of call-ups is a good indication of that.
Q. Turning to the match against South Korea, what are your personal objectives for the game. Have you got the East Asian Championships (qualifiers) in Hong Kong (next month) in mind with your selections?
A. No, not at all. South Korea is a separate entity. I consider them as one of the toughest teams in Asia. Both teams have a bye (World Cup qualifying) so it was a good opportunity to give me a good idea about the strength of the group. This will be a very good test for us.
Q. Let's talk about some of your more interesting selections. Eli Babalj at this point is still eligible for Serbia, and is playing for Red Star Belgrade. Are you trying to work out how passionate he is about playing for Australia?
A. I can tell you he's very passionate, because when he got approached, got confronted with the possibility of joining our group, he was over the moon. That already indicates his passion to play for us. Whether he's eligible to play for Serbia or not, it doesn't matter. First of all we have to call him in, give him an opportunity, and see how he fits.
Q. Does he bring something different to the other strikers you have available?
A. He's more than the traditional type of attacker. Physically, he's very strong, he knows where the goal stands, he's a good finisher, he's a bit different. Maybe not as mobile as Alex Brosque, for instance, but he has his strong points. If we put everything into the scale, we can benefit from that.
Q. One of the other interesting names is Matthew Leckie. You've called him up for the first time. Why?
A. Matthew is one of the guys who's always been on our radar. He's doing well with his new club (FSV Frankfurt), and after some injury problems, he's back in the team, a regular starter, so it's a good opportunity for me to have a look at him.
Q. A player at the other end of the age spectrum is Michael Thwaite. He's been involved in a couple of your previous squads, and now you've recalled him. Is he a chance to start against South Korea?
A. He's definitely a good chance to get some playing time, but I don't know whether it's going to be from the start. I have always regarded him very highly. He was quite unfortunate in recent call-ups, whenever he was in the group he either got injured, or the player in front of him left a better impression. I definitely rate him very much, and it's good to have him back.
Q. Whenever squads are announced, there's usually as much focus on who missed out as to who got picked. Tell us about Richard Porta. Where is he in your thinking?
A. I have to make one thing perfectly clear. We are well aware what he's doing, that he's scoring quite a number of goals (for Dubai SC), and he's doing well. We did some scouting, (assistant) Robbie Hooker went there, now (technical director) Han Berger is there and is going to have a second look at him.
We have contacted him, but the situation is that he represented Uruguay at under-20 level, in the South American championships, so that makes it a bit difficult for us. In order for him to be eligible for us, we have to go through a lot of paperwork, we have to approach the Uruguayan association to see if he-s eligible, then we have to go to the AFC, or FIFA. So it's not an easy one. First of all, he has to commit 100 per cent to Australia, and we then take the necessary steps.
Q. Back to the game, South Korea have picked a squad of mostly K-League players. Are you still expecting a tough match?
A. The K-League is definitely one of the stronger leagues in Asia. I have seen a couple of games, I have seen the Korean team on a couple of occasions, and in recent qualifiers there has hardly been anybody from overseas. In the Asian Champions League they do well (Ulsan Hyundai are in the final this weekend), so they are pretty decent. They mostly pick their players from the K-League, so I definitely expected a strong team.
Q Finally, both Australia and South Korea are halfway through the World Cup qualifying campaign. The Koreans recently lost in Tehran, and are facing a tough fight to qualify. How do you compare our group with theirs?
A. I think both groups are equally strong. I don't want to call the defeat in Iran a negative one, because if you've seen the game it was going either side. The Koreans could have won it. In Iran, 100,000 people in the stadium, very fanatic, it's not an easy one. When you travel to these countries it's always tough, so to get points on the road is never easy.