SYDNEY (AP) — Veteran Dynamo Moscow defender Luke Wilkshire was one of four players cut by coach Ange Postecoglou as Australia reduced its squad to 23 players for the World Cup.
Wilkshire, a 32-year-old right back who played for Australia at both the 2006 and 2010 tournaments, did not figure in Postecoglou’s plans since the new coach replaced Holger Osieck in November.
“A whole range of things — balance of squad, individual, condition they’re in, how they respond to training,” Postecoglou told Australian Associated Press about Wilkshire being dropped. “Was he unlucky? Yes, but so were others. Someone has to miss out.”
In a statement Tuesday from the team’s training base in Vitoria, Brazil, Football Federation Australia also said veteran striker Josh Kennedy and young playmaker Tom Rogic were cut for injury-related reasons — Japan-based Kennedy with a back ailment and Rogic with a groin injury.
The fourth player cut was Newcastle Jets goalkeeper Mark Birighitti.
The 21-year-old Rogic, considered to be one of the best young stars in Australian football, was substituted at halftime during Australia’s 2-0 win over local side Parana Clube on Monday.
The Australia coaching staff had been monitoring the fitness of Rogic, who played the last half of the A-League season with Melbourne Victory on loan from Scottish club Celtic.
Kennedy’s omission means that young Newcastle Jets striker Adam Taggart will get a chance to play in Brazil as Tim Cahill’s understudy. Taggart scored 16 goals to lead the A-League last season.
Birighitti’s omission was no surprise. Australia’s first-choice goalkeeper is Mat Ryan with the German-based Mitch Langerak and Adelaide United’s Eugene Galekovic to back him up.
However, Birighitti is likely to stay in Brazil because of concerns over Langerak, who has a knee injury. Australia can make late changes, only through injury, until 24 hours before its opening match against Chile in Cuiaba on June 13.
With Ivan Franjic of the A-League’s Brisbane Roar still recovering from a knee injury, the only other specialist right back was Wilkshire. But Postecoglou said his priority was to have more options up front.
“It’s no secret we’re light across the whole back four, but at the same time we’re pretty happy with what we’ve got,” he said. “I felt that in midfield and up front we needed some variations.”
Australia also faces defending champion Spain and 2010 runner-up the Netherlands in a tough Group B.
Without Wilkshire and Kennedy, the squad loses the experience of almost 120 international appearances.
“I made decisions early on in terms of the experience question and part of that was regenerating the squad,” Postecoglou said. “We’ve started on that course and we won’t change. The price you pay is experience, but this experience will be invaluable for some of the younger guys.”
Goalkeepers: Mat Ryan (Club Brugge), Mitchell Langerak (Borussia Dortmund), Eugene Galekovic (Adelaide United).
Defenders: Ivan Franjic (Brisbane Roar), Jason Davidson (Heracles Almelo), Matthew Spiranovic (Western Sydney Wanderers), Bailey Wright (Preston North End), Alex Wilkinson (Jeonbuk Motors), Ryan McGowan (Shandong Luneng).
Midfielders: Mile Jedinak (captain, Crystal Palace), Mark Milligan (Melbourne Victory), James Holland (Austria Vienna), Massimo Luongo (Swindon Town), Oliver Bozanic (Luzern), Matt McKay (Brisbane Roar), Mark Bresciano (Al-Gharafa).
Forwards: Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls), Dario Vidosic (Sion), Tommy Oar (FC Utrecht), James Troisi (Melbourne Victory), Ben Halloran (Fortuna Duesseldorf), Adam Taggart (Newcastle Jets), Mathew Leckie (FSV Frankfurt).