SYDNEY: Australia will make their first trip to soccer’s Asian Cup with a strong squad featuring their highest-profile European-based stars.
Liverpool striker Harry Kewell, new Newcastle signing Mark Viduka, Everton midfielder Tim Cahill and Middlesbrough goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer were among the 23-man squad announced yesterday by coach Graham Arnold for the July 7-29 Asian Cup.
The 16-nation tournament will be hosted in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.
Spain-based John Aloisi and Blackburn midfielder Brett Emerton were also included.
“I think you can see by the strength of the squad on paper that it’s an outstanding squad and the task now is to transfer that on to the field and make sure that there’s no complacency,” Arnold said.
Celtic forward Scott McDonald was overlooked for selection, while the surprise addition was 23-year-old Sydney FC midfielder David Carney.
“I didn’t expect to be in it straightaway but I knew I was in with a shot so when they told me obviously I was over the moon,” Carney said. “I was ordering Thai at the time and I felt like kissing everyone in the shop.”
McDonald played in last week’s friendly loss to Uruguay in Sydney but failed to make the cut yesterday.
Arnold says he chose not to select McDonald to give the emerging striker a full pre-season with his new club at Glasgow. McDonald has only just joined Celtic from Scottish rivals Motherwell.
“If Scotty McDonald is playing football week in, week out with Celtic, and playing in European competition, then it’s going to be better for the Socceroos in the long run looking forward to 2008, 2009 and South Africa in 2010,” Arnold said.
Australia, who switched to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) last year from Oceania, will be making their inaugural appearance in the regional showcase tournament.
The Australians qualified via Oceania for the 2006 World Cup, and reached the second round before a last-minute loss to eventual champions Italy.
Arnold admitted Australia were strong favourites to win the Asian Cup.
“We’re the favourites because of what we did at the 2006 World Cup and because we have great players. It’s simple,” said Arnold. “The word ‘favouritism’ is an honour to have and I want to use it any way we can.”
The Socceroos will play a warm-up match at Singapore on June 30, although Kewell and Cahill are unlikely to start in that match as they continue rehabilitation from injuries.
Australia’s Asian Cup group matches in the tournament begin on July 8 in Thailand against Oman, with later matches against Iraq and Thailand, all in Bangkok. – AP
Goalkeepers: Mark Schwarzer (Middlesbrough-Eng), Brad Jones (Middlesbrough-Eng), Michael Petkovic (Sivasspor-Tur).
Defenders: Lucas Neill (West Ham-Eng), Brett Emerton (Blackburn-Eng), Michael Beauchamp (Nuremberg-Ger), Michael Thwaite (Wisla Krakow-Pol), Mark Milligan (Sydney FC-Aus), Patrick Kisnorbo (Leicester City-Eng).
Midfielders: Mark Bresciano (Palermo-Ita), Harry Kewell (Liverpool-Eng), Tim Cahill (Everton-Eng), Vince Grella (Parma-Ita), Mile Sterjovski (Basel-Swi), Luke Wilkshire (Twente-Ned), Jason Culina (PSV Eindhoven-Ned), Carl Valeri (US Grosseto-Ita), Nick Carle (Newcastle Jets-Aus), David Carney (Sydney FC-Aus).
Strikers: John Aloisi (Alaves-Spa), Brett Holman (NEC Nijmegen-Ned), Archie Thompson (Melbourne Victory-Aus), Mark Viduka (Newcastle-Eng).