When Ange Postecoglou announced his resignation just months from Australia’s 2018 World Cup campaign, several Australian players set their sights on a place in the squad for Russia.

Among the hopefuls is Luke Wilkshere, Brett Holman and Michael Zullo, three players who’ve been seemingly forgotten in recent years despite their consistent performances at international level.

Despite boasting over 150 caps between them the trio were deemed surplus to requirements on the eve of the 2014 World Cup and none of them have been seen in the green and gold since.

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Woolongong-born Wilkshere enjoyed a distinguished career in Europe with Middlesborough, FC Twente and Feyenord before moving to Russia – a switch that might pay dividends when the World Cup begins.

Questions will be asked of Wilkshere’s 36-year-old body but the ever-energetic defender looks in superior shape and has played in 18 of Sydney FC’s 19 matches this season.

Wilkshere refused to dismiss he’s given up hope on international football and will surely be looking to fellow veteran Tim Cahill as inspiration, who remains one of Australia’s most dangerous goal-scoring weapons at the tender age of 38.

“I’ve never closed any doors, I’ve never done that in my career at club or international level,” Wilkshere told FourFourTwo.

“I enjoy playing my football, so any opportunity I get to play, I want to grab it and enjoy it and that’s what I’ve done throughout my career.”

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New Socceroos coach Bert Van Marwijk has been assigned the tough task of selecting Australia’s best 23 players for Russia and one player will be hoping a past relationship will count for something come selection time.

Brett Holman was signed by Ven Marwijk for Feyenord in 2002 and despite not playing for the national team in almost five years the 33-year-old has been in fine touch for Brisbane Roar of late.

Despite having no doubts over quitting international football in 2014 Holman played down talks of a national team recall after appearing 63 times for the Socceroos including two goals in the 2010 World Cup.

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“I retired for a reason and until today I’ve had no regrets,” Holman told The Daily Mail.

“We’re all jumping ahead of ourselves I think for now.”

Michael Zullo is one of several Sydney FC players alongside Wilkshere, Josh Brillante and Alex Wilkinson who are all genuine candidates to make van Marwijk’s final squad.

The fleet-footed full back has been an integral part of Sydney’s dominance throughout the last two campaigns and the 10-times Socceroo could fit nicely into van Marwijk’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.

Zullo’s main rivals for the left-back position include Alex Gersbach, Aziz Behich and James Meredith who all play abroad but the 29-yea-old is assured playing in the A-League won’t dent his chances of playing in Russia.

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“If you’re playing in the A-League, especially in a World Cup year, it has to be something that is an aim for you,” Zullo told the Courier.

“It’s as a result of good performances with your club that you put yourself into contention for the national team.

“That step isn’t as far away as it used to be – the gap in quality between overseas-based Socceroos and domestic-based Socceroos isn’t as large as it used to be.”

With a number of players knocking on the door for selection there’s a huge amount of interest ahead of March’s away friendlies against Norway and Colombia.

Van Marwijk’s initial squad may provide some insight into his mindset for the World Cup but for now it will remain to be seen who exactly makes the 23-man cut for Russia.

 

 

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Football fan and digital communications officer following Perth Glory during the 2017/2018 A-League season.