Socceroos midfielder Richard Garcia has admitted he faces a tense few months to see whether he will be included in Australia coach Pim Verbeek's plans for the FIFA World Cup™ in South Africa.
A combination of form, fitness and the insecurity surrounding his club, Hull City, means Garcia is the only one of Verbeek's Premier League-based Socceroos who's sweating on his place in the Dutchman's 23-man final squad. Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer and midfield trio Tim Cahill, Brett Emerton and Vince Grella all seem certainties for the squad.
But Garcia has endured an interrupted second season in the Premier League with Hull, who languish second-bottom in the table and this week sacked Phil Brown, the manager who brought the 28-year-old to the Tigers from Colchester United in 2007.
"There will be a tense few months ahead to wait and see whether I'm in the squad or not," he said. "I think there are still a lot of spots up for grabs and I'm just trying to play as much here as I can and trying to concentrate on helping Hull get out of the predicament we're in. Hopefully that will be enough for me to get a place on the plane to South Africa."
With only nine Premier League games remaining starting with this weekend's crucial trip to bottom side Portsmouth, Garcia's window of opportunity to extinguish any lingering doubts over this FIFA World Cup participation is drawing to a close.
He has started just 12 of Hull's 29 league games this year after damaging knee ligaments during pre-season training and missing the opening three months of the new campaign, an absence that also put pay to his involvement in five Socceroos internationals including the AFC Asian Cup double header against Oman.
After featuring regularly between November and January, Garcia regained his first team spot against Everton at the start of the month, but illness prevented him keeping hold of it for the visit of Arsenal last Saturday. Brown's dismissal on Monday has now thrown his position at Hull and, consequently, his chances of catching Verbeek's eye into uncertainty, especially after winning the last of his five international caps nine months ago.
"I haven't really had a chance since I got injured," conceded Garcia. "But I'm just hopeful that they've been watching me in the domestic league and also remember the times I have been with the squad and what they know I can do. I'm pretty confident they know what I've got available."
In contrast to a handful of his national team colleagues, including rivals for a place at the FIFA World Cup, Garcia is at least fit and has a hectic schedule of games ahead of him.
With the A-League season due to finish this weekend, domestic-based players such as Jason Culina and Chris Coyne have been forced to secure short-team opportunities outside Australia. Culina has accepted the offer of a five-week training stint with former club PSV, while Coyne recently snared a loan move from Perth Glory to Chinese Super League side Liaoning Hongyun.
Although Hull are fighting desperately to maintain their top flight status, Garcia is mindful that playing in what's considered the strongest domestic competition in the world should count in his favour. He said: "It's not as though I'm playing at a poor standard.
"Playing in this league prepares you well for playing in the World Cup because it is such a ruthless and high tempo league. It's one of the best leagues in the world and you're pitting yourself against some of the players that are going to be going to the World Cup.
"But at the same time you never want to tempt fate and I think as far as the Australia team goes we're all on even ground. At the moment, I'm pretty much concentrating on the job in hand here. I'm looking forward to that being over so I can concentrate on getting in the squad and hopefully going to the World Cup."