5 Things Ange Postecoglou Should Test in Australia's Friendly vs. Croatia
With one more warm-up match before the World Cup gets underway, Australia coach Ange Postecoglou has plenty to test out.
The manager has only been in charge for three games thus far, so he has had very little time to trial different formations and strategies.
A long injury list has further complicated his plans, so the match against Croatia on Thursday will no doubt be invaluable to him in deciding on how to approach the team's first World Cup game against Chile on June 13.
Here are five things Postecoglou should test out against Croatia.
Alternatives to Tim Cahill Up Front
Postecoglou played Tim Cahill as the centre-forward in Australia's last outing against South Africa. Cahill was flanked by two wide forwards, Tommy Oar and Matthew Leckie.
Josh Kennedy was the obvious alternative to Cahill, a man who could come off the bench to offer a huge presence up front, but he has been sent home with a back injury.
Postecoglou must now determine who else can play the central striking role.
His options include both Leckie and Oar, as well as the inexperienced trio of James Troisi, Adam Taggart and Ben Halloran.
Central Defensive Pairing
Postecoglou will be keen to give his new (likely) central defensive pairing of Alex Wilkinson and Matthew Spiranovic as many minutes together as possible.
With the failure of Lucas Neill to make the grade and injuries to Curtis Good and Rhys Williams, Australia's defence has undergone a complete and rapid overhaul.
A lack of stability at the back is the last thing a coach wants, but Postecoglou is running out of time. He must hope that the players that he has settled on can jell very quickly.
Back-Ups at Right-Back
The biggest shock when Australia's final 23-man squad was announced was that veteran utility player Luke Wilkshire was not included.
Wilkshire's versatility had proven very useful in the last two World Cups, and his experience at right-back was expected to get him over the line.
Ivan Franjic is Postecoglou's first choice in that position, but the Brisbane Roar man limped off the field with a knee injury during the team's friendly with South Africa on Monday and remains under a cloud for the Croatia game.
If Franjic pulls out of that game, or cannot compete in any of the games at the World Cup, it is hard to see who in the squad will slot into the right-back role.
Perhaps the manager will give some hints as to who he has in mind on Thursday.
The Best Creative Midfielder in the Absence of Bresciano
Another player who is battling injury ahead of the Croatia game is playmaker Mark Bresciano.
Even if he does recover in time for Thursday's match, it would be wise for Postecoglou to experiment with some other options in the creative midfielder role.
Dario Vidosic, Adam Sarota and James Troisi are all possible alternatives to the former Serie A star, should he be a fitness concern during the World Cup.
Whether Oar Is Most Effective on the Left or in a Free Role
Though he emerged at the Brisbane Roar as a fleet-footed wide man, Tommy Oar has developed his game to the point where he is now also a threat when he moves into central areas.
Against South Africa, he proved a nuisance to the opposition by drifting inside and contributing to his team's attacking play from there.
Postecoglou must decide whether Oar is more useful as an out-an-out winger or a free-roaming creative player.
The 22-year-old's performance against Croatia should give an indication of what the coach wants from him.