- *Australia field a host of new players at Russia 2017 *
- *Alex Gersbach shone against Cameroon, despite one previous starting cap *
- *“We have a young team and good players coming through”, says Postecoglou *
*By Pete Smith with Australia *
When it comes to team selection, Australia coach Ange Postecoglou is never afraid to experiment. Of Australia’s starting side that drew 1-1 against Cameroon, five had never previously played at a world or continental level.
Milos Degenek, Alex Gersbach, Bailey Wright, Aaron Mooy and Tommy Rogic are all debuting at a major tournament, while five of the unused players to date are in the same position.
In a little more than three years in the role, Postecoglou has called up in excess of 50 players to wear the Green and Gold. Some swim, some sink. And it is the former who can produce wonderful dividends.
There is no greater example than left-sided flanker Gersbach, who did not put a foot wrong in the biggest match of his short career, as he slotted in seamlessly working up and down the sideline. Gersbach, who turned 20 just last month, was on holidays until he got the call less than a fortnight ago to replace the injured Brad Smith.
“That is the beauty of being that young,” said Australia captain Mark Milligan of Gersbach. “He was told go out there and be nice and aggressive, and ‘Gers’ just goes out and does it.
“Considering everything, he has come in and done a great job. Having him aggressive and getting forward out wide is really handy.”
Australia now must win their final match against Chile by two goals, if they are to overhaul the South Americans, or hope other results go their way. But if they do exit Russia 2017 on Sunday, there is hope for the promise of greater things to come.
Searching for gold
The result of Postecoglou’s constant search for the perfect alchemy is not only a group of younger players getting their chance, but greater depth within the squad.
“I thought Alex was excellent and coped really well tonight,” said Postecoglou of a young player who was hailed from the moment he broke into the Sydney FC side at 17.
“He has great technique, is a great performer, he did well with the penalty and he put a couple of great balls in. And up against really good opposition.”
With the exception of Tim Cahill, Postecoglou’s early reign marked the end of Australia’s golden generation that starred at the 2006 and 2010 FIFA World Cups™. After a six-year tenure as national youth coach, Postecoglou has long been an advocate of youth.
“We have some good players coming through and it is a young team,” said Postecoglou.
“These guys will be together for the next four to six years. Alex [Gersbach], [midfielder] Ajdin Hrustic and there are a couple outside this group that are younger, who will keep exposing.”