Why Australia Made a Mistake Taking Taggart over Wilkshire

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Why Australia Made a Mistake Taking Taggart over Wilkshire
Rob Griffith/Associated Press

The biggest shock when Ange Postecoglou named his final 23-man Australia squad for the World Cup in Brazil was the omission of veteran utility player Luke Wilkshire.

Capable of playing at right-back as well as several other positions across defence and midfield, the 32-year-old would surely have been a more useful squad member than, say, back-up striker Adam Taggart, especially considering the injury concerns hovering over Ivan Franjic.

There is no obvious replacement for Franjic on the right side of defence should he succumb to injury, whereas Australia have numerous combinations they could use up front. 

The new Socceroos coach has overseen a culling of the "Golden Generation" of players who formed the backbone of the the past two World Cup teams, but Wilkshire was thought to be safe from the axe.

Mark Bresciano and Tim Cahill are the only two who survived the purge, and they will add some valuable experience to a very youthful Australian squad.

Here's how Postecoglou explained the Wilkshire omission, as reported by Michael Lynch of the Sydney Morning Herald:

We wanted a certain number of players in midfield and up front.

We are going to have to need some variations, but in the end he was the unlucky one who missed out.

We are light on across the whole back four, but we are pretty happy with the ones we have got there and there are some variations we can play at right back or left back if needed.

Looking at the make-up of our squad there are other areas of the park where we are going to need more.

While the coach admits his side is light at the back, his comments indicate he wanted enough midfielders and forwards in his squad to be able to play different combinations and tactical setups.

The confusing aspect to that statement is that Wilkshire can, and has, played in the midfield for Australia before.

If defensive midfielders Mark Milligan or Mile Jedinak were injured or suspended, he would be a viable backup.

The same applied to the left-back position, where there appears to be little cover for Jason Davidson.

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So what was behind Postecoglou's decision? Beyond the limited insight he gave reporters, we can only guess.

His determination to rejuvenate the squad almost certainly played a part.

Former World Cup veterans and Australian footballing legends Mark Schwarzer, Lucas Neill, Brett Emerton, Brett Holman and Harry Kewell are all absent from the squad this time around, and perhaps Postecoglou decided there was no point hanging on to another veteran simply to use him as a back-up player.

There are also factors such as team chemistry, a player's fitness and training ground performance that may have played a part in the manager's choices.

The fact that Franjic played a strong game against Croatia in Australia's final hit-out before the tournament will give Postecoglou reason for optimism that the knee injury he suffered against South Africa won't affect his World Cup campaign.

Leaving Wilshire out was certainly a gamble, though, and Socceroos fans will be hoping their national team coach has bet on the right horse.

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