When news began filtering through late Saturday night that Socceroos and Bayer Leverkusen winger Robbie Kruse had torn his anterior cruciate ligament, the Australian footballing fraternity collectively engaged in a sharp intake of breath. Kruse has been the most inventive and direct player we have had in the green and gold for some time, his performance against Jordan showcasing all his talents at full effect.
But whilst most are still hoping that Kruse’s injury could be a misdiagnosis or not as severe as first feared, coach Ange Postecoglou must move on and work out who he will play on the right flank come the 13th of June when Australia open their world cup campaign against Chile.
In Postecoglou’s first game in charge against Costa Rica, he deployed Dario Vidosic on the left of the attacking quartet in his 4-2-3-1 formation. But with Kruse’s unfortunate injury and the likely return to the starting side of Tommy Oar, Vidosic now appears to be the go to man on the right flank. Whilst he is a naturally a number ten who can create and score, the lack of natural high quality wingers means he may be the man for the job.
We will most likely see Oar start on the left, meaning that there are three further attacking positions to fill. Matthew Leckie performed admirably as a lone striker, combining well with Vidosic on numerous occasions. Barring a dramatic dip in form for either, or another cruel injury, Leckie will fill the lone striker role and Vidosic will be in the starting line up.
Vidosic has been in great form all season for Swiss outfit FC Sion and has arguably become their most important attacking player, scoring four goals and laying on four assists. His form will see him travel to Brazil, but his versatility could see him start on the right.
Starting Vidosic wide also allows Postecoglou to employ another number ten in the side, essential for creativity when we are facing superior opponents. Mark Bresciano filled the role against the Costa Ricans but with Tom Rogic looking likely to be playing regular first team football in the lead up to Brazil, he could make that central playmaking spot his own.
At the time of writing, the Tom Rogic tug-of-war between Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory looks as though it will end with Rogic becoming a Victory player. He will be loaned from Celtic until season’s end (including the Victory’s Asian Champions League campaign).
If Rogic is playing regularly he will go to Brazil, and form permitting, will be Australia’s chief playmaker at the World Cup. But he needs to impress quickly, because every game he misses gives him even fewer chances to impress Postecoglou and show that he deserves to be starting in Brazil. Postecoglou has already indicated that he will be prioritising current form over all else, and players must be playing regular football to be considered for the World Cup.
But what if Postecoglou throws a spanner in the works? What if he starts Vidosic through the middle, then who would play on the right? There are suggestions that Ivan Franjic could play on the wing for the Socceroos, but he is a natural fullback and is most likely to be deployed at right back, or even left back. His pace and energy can be used to greater effect there, rather than further forward.
We have Vidosic, so what about another Aussie playing in Switzerland? Oliver Bozanic has been in tremendous form for FC Luzern this campaign, and some opinions from within the Swiss game suggest he’s been close to the player of the season. He has found the back of the net five times, while also grabbing an assist.
Bozanic’s pace would also give the Socceroos a different element through the middle, especially compare to the likes of Bresciano. The left footer could play through the middle with Vidosic shifted right.
You’ll notice a theme beginning to appear here: Vidosic keeps ending up on the right flank in each scenario. Not because it’s his best position, but because he is the best we have in that position with Kruse unavailable. Vidosic also started on the right in the 3-0 friendly win over Canada in October.
What if Tim Cahill starts? Well then again we’d see Oar on the left and Vidosic on the right, but Cahill will probably be deployed as an impact sub, in much the same way he was against Costa Rica. His aerial ability and goals from midfield can help the Socceroos in a tight game, but his style of play doesn’t fit Postecoglou’s mantra.
Nikita Rukavytsya is not a realistic option given his lack of game time this season. He has made ten appearances since joining FSV Frankfurt on loan, but eight of those have been from the bench. He has started just two games and scored only once so far.
What about another player plying his trade in Germany, youngster Kwame Yeboah? Postecoglou does like young players, and he does like exciting and pacey forwards. But Kwame will need to break into the first team at Gladbach before the end of the season to have a chance, and that is a tall order for the young Queenslander.
Could we play two up front? Could Tomi Juric partner Leckie? Perhaps if Rogic fails to find form before the world cup and Postecoglou decides to attempt to replicate the Victory’s 4-2-2-2 formation, then it could be a possibility. But for all Juric’s qualities, his petulance with referees and ill discipline could cost him.
On Sunday afternoon against Adelaide, he committed an unnecessary foul that earned him his fifth booking of the season. Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic put his head in his hands as he realised Juric would be suspended for their next game. This was a telling insight into how frustrating Juric can be to coach and control. Postecoglou will want and need players he can trust in Brazil, and at the moment, Juric doesn’t fall into that category.
So there really is only one conclusion we can come to regarding who should fill Robbie Kruse’s spot on the right wing for the Socceroos at the World Cup, the man they call Kangaroo, Dario Vidosic.