MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia winger Robbie Kruse should count himself lucky that a lack of first-team action at club level did not cost him a place in the squad for next week's crunch World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia, coach Ange Postecoglou has said.
Kruse, once one of the first names down on the team sheet, struggled for playing time during an ill-fated stint in China before leaving Liaoning Whowin in acrimony over unpaid salary.
Before moving to China, 50-cap Kruse was used sparingly by German club Bayer Leverkusen and managed only a few appearances when loaned out to Stuttgart.
Postecoglou has stayed loyal to the Brisbane-born 28-year-old, however, and threw him another lifeline by including him in the Socceroos' 23-man squad to take on the Saudis, Brazil in a friendly and for the Confederations Cup in Russia.
"With Krusey, obviously the China move didn't work out for him," Postecoglou told reporters in Adelaide on Wednesday.
"He is probably one where his next move is going to be very, very important.
"And again he gets a little bit of an opportunity to put himself in the shop window.
"I rate Krusey highly. He is still at an age where at his best he can certainly contribute at international level.
"But he is probably one of the ones who is fortunate to be in the squad."
Australia ended a run of four successive draws with their 2-0 win over the UAE in Sydney in March but sit third in Group B of Asian qualifying, three points behind Japan and Saudi Arabia.
Only the top two teams qualify automatically for Russia, with the third-placed team going into a playoff.
Postecoglou has stuck with the core of the side that lifted the 2015 Asian Cup on home soil, with veteran striker Tim Cahill, winger Mathew Leckie and midfielders Aaron Mooy and Massimo Luongo in the 23 named on Wednesday.
Three uncapped players, Netherlands-based winger Ajdin Hrustic, defender Dylan McGowan and Sydney FC goalkeeper Danny Vukovic, all made the cut from a wider 30-man squad.
Postecoglou won a tug-of-war to secure 20-year-old Hrustic, who was born in Melbourne but courted by Bosnia-Herzegovina, his father's birthplace.
"He is one that looks like he has the potential to hopefully one day become a regular international," Postecoglou said.
After taking on the Saudis at Adelaide Oval on June 8, Australia head to Melbourne for a friendly against Brazil five days later before heading to Russia for the Confederations Cup.
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford