Ange Postecoglou has revealed he omitted Tim Cahill from his squad for the forthcoming FIFA World Cup™ qualifier in Thailand in order to rest him for a gruelling 2017. The Socceroos are second in Group B, two points behind Saudi Arabia and one above Japan. With the Japanese hosting the Saudis on 15 November, victory in Bangkok on the same day could see the Aussies finish the year in pole position.
Postecoglou nevertheless chose to preserve the Melbourne City player – his country’s 48-goal all-time leading marksman – for next year’s schedule, which includes their final five Russia 2018 qualifiers and the FIFA Confederations Cup, where they have Germany, Portugal, Russia, Chile, Mexico and fierce rivals New Zealand for company.
“With Timmy, he had a bit of an interrupted pre-season,” said the Greece-born former Australia defender. “We took him along to the last camp and he got through most of the work, but for us it’s most important Tim has a strong A-League season.
"Next year is a massive year with the back half of qualifying and Confederation’s Cup. He’s one of a number that’s on the threshold, and we decided to leave him out and bring in someone like Jamie Maclaren, who we can get something out of this camp.”
Maclaren hit 18 goals in the regular season of last season’s A-League – a record for an Australian player. However, the 23-year-old failed to score in Brisbane Roar’s first three games this term and was left out of the 30-man preliminary squad Postecoglou named last week. After breaking his duck against Perth Glory at the weekend, Maclaren earned a surprise ticket to Thailand.
“Jamie is always on the radar,” said Postecoglou. “He missed out on the initial squad last week, but I thought against Central Coast last week and this weekend scoring, he’s looked pretty good.”
Thailand have lost all four of their Group B matches. Postecoglou has nonetheless warned against complacency.
“Against us they will probably sit off as most teams do, but I think they have more about them with the ball and being able to break through lines so we have to be pretty switched on,” said the 51-year-old. “They haven’t got any points on the board at the moment, but they will be thinking there’s no better scalp than the Asian champions.”
Australia had only competed in one World Cup until 2006, but have now striving to qualify for the fourth time in succession.