SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia coach Bert van Marwijk sprung a minor surprise by including uncapped Croatia-based defender Fran Karacic in his preliminary World Cup squad on Monday.
The Dutchman, who led the Netherlands to the 2010 World Cup final, otherwise found space for all the usual suspects in his 32-man party, which he will cut down to 23 before the FIFA deadline on June 4.
NK Lokomotiva right back Karacic, whose father was born in Australia but who has represented Croatia at under-21 level, was one of two uncapped players included along with 19-year-old Melbourne City forward Daniel Arzani.
Van Marwijk said he had quickly identified right back as a position where Australia had a lack of depth when he took over as coach earlier this year and had been alerted to Karacic’s eligibility by assistant coach Ante Milicic.
“We don’t have a lot of players who play that position ... when somebody on the technical staff gives me the information about a player playing in Croatia who also has an Australian passport, then it can be an interesting player,” he told a news conference.
Van Marwijk said he would give Karacic every chance to earn a position in the 26 or 27-man squad he will take to Turkey for a pre-World Cup training camp in a couple of weeks.
The Dutchman said he already had the majority of his final squad in his head but that even totemic forward Tim Cahill was not guaranteed a spot, especially given his lack of playing time at Millwall in England.
“He is a special case, he’s special in everything, he’s 38, he’s probably one of the best players ever for Australia,” he added.
“He’s a very good striker (but) he doesn’t play and I have to take a decision on whether to take him to the world championships. He’s not 19 like Arzani, he’s twice as old.
“But he’s also a player who will not be nervous when we play in front of 90,000 people, and he’s also a player that makes a difference.
“I have to make a choice and that will not be easy but that’s why I am here.”
The Socceroos face France, Denmark and Peru in Group C at the June 14-July 15 finals.
Goalkeepers - Mat Ryan (Brighton and Hove Albion, England), Danny Vukovic (Genk, Belgium), Brad Jones (Feyenoord, Netherlands) Mitch Langerak (Nagoya Grampus, Japan)
Defenders - Aziz Behich (Bursaspor, Turkey), Milos Degenek (Yokohama F. Marinos, Japan), Matthew Jurman (Suwon Bluewings, South Korea), James Meredith (Millwall, England), Josh Risdon (Western Sydney), Trent Sainsbury (Grasshoppers Zurich, Switzerland), Aleksandar Susnjar (FK Mlada Boleslav, Czech Republic), Bailey Wright (Bristol City, England), Fran Karacic (NK Lokomotiva, Croatia), Alex Gersbach (Lens, France)
Midfielders - Josh Brillante (Sydney FC), Mile Jedinak (Aston Villa, England), Jackson Irvine (Hull City, England), Robbie Kruse (Bochum, Germany), Massimo Luongo (Queens Park Rangers, England), Mark Milligan (Al Ahli, Saudi Arabia), Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield Town, England), Tom Rogic (Celtic, Scotland), James Troisi (Melbourne Victory).
Forwards - Tim Cahill (Millwall, England), Tomi Juric (FC Luzern, Switzerland), Matthew Leckie (Hertha Berlin, Germany), Andrew Nabbout (Urawa Red Diamonds, Japan), Nikita Rukavytsya (Maccabi Haifa, Israel), Dimitri Petratos (Newcastle Jets), Daniel Arzani (Melbourne City), Jamie Maclaren (Hibernian), Apostolos Giannou (AEK Larnaca).
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Ian Ransom