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Australia stick with experience for World Cup

May 10, 2006 19:13 IST
Australia coach Guus Hiddink named a tried and trusted 23-man squad on Wednesday for the World Cup in Germany.

The only surprises were the inclusion of towering German-based striker Josh Kennedy and locally-based defenders Mark Milligan and Michael Beauchamp.

Everton midfielder Tim Cahill was selected despite concerns about his injured knee from his English club and Middlesbrough goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer was picked after recovering from a broken cheekbone.

"About 90 to 95 per cent of the positions were already picked... so at the end it wasn't that difficult," Hiddink said in a statement.

"There were only three positions to be decided. We already had in our heads the basic positions of the team but we needed to be flexible as well."

Kennedy, a 1.94 metre tall striker with German second division club Dynamo Dresden, was chosen to add extra height up front despite being uncapped at international level.

Milligan, also uncapped, caught the selectors' attention during Australia's under-23s tour of Vietnam while Beauchamp made his international debut in Australia's Asian Cup qualifier against Bahrain in February.

Australia were forced to start looking for a new defender at short notice when Tony Vidmar announced on Tuesday he was pulling out because of a heart condition.

"It is unbelievable. It is a dream come true to go to the World Cup and I am still struggling to come to terms with it," Milligan told a news conference at Sydney airport, where the squad was announced against the backdrop of a Boeing 767 painted in the Socceroos' livery.

The squad is packed with experienced players who ply their trade in Europe and Britain, including Australia's best-known players Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka.

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A decision on who will captain the team has been delayed until this month's friendly against Greece in Melbourne but Viduka and Newcastle defender Craig Moore are the only real contenders.

"Viduka's done nothing wrong and Craig Moore's done nothing wrong," assistant coach Graham Arnold told Reuters.

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"Both
of them would be very proud to be captain going to a World Cup but it's something Guus wants to think about."

Australia have made only one appearance at the World Cup finals, in 1974, where they were eliminated after the first round.

They face another daunting challenge to make the second round this time after being drawn in the same group as Brazil, Croatia and Japan.

"We've got some wonderful players around the world that have carved out their own careers and now we're coming together as a national team and we're a very good national team," Arnold said.

"We've got nothing to lose and our best strength will be our team spirit and our physical ability.

"I think it's a very adaptable squad. We've got a lot of possibilities to change systems. We've got all positions covered with two or three players."

Hiddink took the Netherlands and South Korea to the semi-finals at the last two World Cups and is confident the Australians can do well despite being in such a tough group.

"(We're) happy to be there but I know that the team is not settling down and just participating. This team is so eager to get a surprise to get into the second round."

Julian Linden
Source: REUTERS
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