Who will step up at the back for the Socceroos?

With Lucas Neill ruled out of the Qantas Socceroos' World Cup qualifier against Oman later this month, who is ready to step up and take his place?

With Lucas Neill ruled out of the World Cup qualifier against Oman later this month, it-s worth asking who is ready to step up and take his place?

It-s a great debate and I-ll admit it - I-m scratching about for this one. Normally you-d say, OK, this bloke can come in - but that-s not the current situation with the national team and it has to be a concern for Holger Osieck.

In an ideal world we want to pick players who are playing week in, week out, in the best leagues in the world -but that-s just not the situation at the moment. Holger has to mix and match a little bit because we haven-t really regenerated.

Yes, some depth has been added to the squad and players like Robbie Kruse have come in and done a great job - and Holger has done a great job managing him.

There have been some positives but if you go back to 2006 - and I hate talking about the way it was back then - but 20 players out of the 23-man squad were playing in Europe regularly (the exceptions were Mark Milligan, Archie Thompson and Michael Beauchamp).

At the 2010 World Cup that level dropped away. And for this potential 2014 World Cup - we-re going to struggle to match that.

So who can take Lucas-s place against Oman?

Matthew Sprinanovic has been struggling with injuries, Rhys Williams has just come back from, Dino Djulbic has been doing quite well and was involved in the East Asian cup. Luke DeVere showed a lot of potential when I was at Brisbane Roar and has been doing well but he-s now struggling with a knee injury. And I don-t know what-s happened to big Sasa Ognenovski.

Some people have mentioned Eddy Bosnar, and he certainly has good experience of playing at a decent level for a long time - but the manager has to consider the repercussions of bringing someone into your team in a new environment; is it a one-off, how do you know if they-re going to come in and settle?

At the moment, Robbie Cornthwaite is the walk-up because he-s been involved in the last few squads, scored a couple of goals - he-s done a decent job and earned the right to be in that team.

The other likely candidate is Rhys Williams, who came on as a centre half in the last game. Does that mean he and Robbie Cornthwaite and Williams are our two starting centre halves against Oman?

It-s hard because although I believe Rhys has a huge international future, he-s coming back from injury and it takes time to build up your match fitness and get that confidence back.

So should Holger stay safe or try and do something a little bit left-field? Are there any players in the A-league who could step up?

Mark Milligan has good experience but he-s moved between centre midfield and centrehalf - for me, in international football in an important game, they need to know how to be a central defender first and foremost.

Elsewhere, Central coast Mariners and Western Sydney Wanderers are where they are domestically because defensively they-ve been sound all season.

The Wanderers have been so consistent because they-ve been able to play Michael Beauchamp and Nikolai Topor-Stanley regularly. Beauchamp has the experience of a World Cup under his belt, he played against Serbia in the last world cup and did well. A lot-s been said about Topor-Stanley but without that experience you-re not going to throw him into this kind of game.

At the Mariners, Patrick Zwaanswijk has done a fantastic job in educating both Trent Sainsbury and Zac Anderson but they are two up-and-coming defenders. We don-t have that hugely experienced figure who could help out a younger player through that game.

Michael Thwaite is another one who has done alright at Perth and Jade North-s still chasing fitness at Brisbane, but I just don-t think coming into an important qualifier like this that there-s going to be an Australian-based central defender that will go into the starting line-up.

It-s a really important game for us, I can-t stress that enough. I played a couple of games against Oman and counter-attacking wise they were really dangerous, blistering pace.

For a game like this, someone like Mile Jedinak could probably fill a hole on central defence. Obviously I don-t know what Holger-s thinking but he-s got enough in midfield to be able to mix things up a little bit. Jedinak is fit, match-hardened, experienced - could he play that game as a central defender? I think so.

This is the reality - we have players not playing regularly in different parts of the world, and we have players that are playing regularly but not at the highest level.

I know from first-hand experience that playing at a club level that not a high level and then going to play international football, the step up is massive. It is an area of concern.

I believe we-ll win our remaining home games and qualify for the World Cup and but the ongoing debate is what are we looking like in the future?

The dream is to have players at the highest possible level, in Europe. I can understand why players are taking the opportunity to Asia because it-s a short-lived career and some of the money that-s on offer… I-d never begrudge a player making good money and looking after their family.

Make no mistake, Lucas is a big loss for us. He is coming into a very important stage because when he finishes the season with Sydney he-ll be looking to chase something for next season something in Europe. I think that-s still achievable; maybe not at the top level but there-s a fit for him there somewhere and as long as he-s playing on a regular basis.

But if he doesn-t play regular it becomes a big problem. I know - I went to the 2010 World Cup and copped a lot of criticism because people think I shouldn-t have gone.

Obviously I-m going to say I should have - I was one of the top five in terms of the number of minutes played, I was the fittest I-d been in a while and the concern was that for two or three years prior I-d been in Australia. I knew I was ready but if I wasn-t playing games I was in trouble.

Lucas is 34 now and his next move has got to be purely based on football, where can he play and have a good run to be in the best condition possible for the World Cup. That has to be the only thing he thinks about.

Money doesn-t come into it. What club can he go to where the coach will like him and he will be able to keep his position. There-s no question of him being our natural leader - the big question for now is who is going to be standing beside him?