A new era, brings a clean slate.
That’s not been clearer than in the position Australia boasts the most depth and a rich tradition: goalkeeper.
Word out of Oslo is that Bert van Marwijk’s first camp as Socceroos boss has seen a renewed spring in the step at training as players know they’ve got to impress a new coach to get a spot at the World Cup later this year.
His first selection has shown that nothing is guaranteed.
Mitch Langerak, who has been a staple in the Socceroos squad in recent years, and even started a World Cup qualifier, against Iraq, almost exactly one year ago, is the highest profile casualty thanks to a difference of opinion coming from Ange Postecoglou no longer being in the selector’s chair.
Foxsports.com.au will run the rule over all of the looming selection decisions van Marwijk will have to make ahead of the looming double header.
Langerak, 29, is a prodigious goalkeeping talent but the former Melbourne Victory stopper’s first team opportunities have not flown thick and fast in his time abroad. After leaving Borussia Dortmund, where, impressively, he was Jurgen Klopp’s No.2 learning his trade as a youngster, he played a pivotal and heroic role in Stuttgart’s promotion from 2.Bundesliga. Things were looking good, but on the eve of this Bundesliga season, the club signed Ron-Robert Zieler from Leicester and Langerak, eager to get on the park, moved to La Liga, with Levante.
That didn’t go to plan, and a move this January to Japanese club Nagoya Grampus was supposed to bring regular first team game time and secure his spot in Russia.
But in came van Marwijk, a Dutchman who has watched the exploits of Brad Jones right under his nose in Holland. The 36-year-old, whose last international involvement was in 2014, has enjoyed a renaissance at Feyenoord, where he was won the Eredivisie and enjoyed a taste of European football.
He has impressed van Marwijk, leapfrogged Langerak and quashed speculation that he had turned down national team call-ups wanting guarantees of being first choice.
But comments last week also add further intrigue to the first set of fixtures against Norway and Colombia, even though Mat Ryan has been Australia’s undisputed No.1.
He was pivotal during qualifying, and has now shown himself capable of brilliant shot stopping in the Premier League, where he has become a genuine fan favourite with Brighton & Hove Albion.
But, he might not have it all his own way in the new regime.
“I want to see all the three goalkeepers,” van Marwijk said when asked if he will use all 26 players in his squad in the next two matches.
When asked why Jones got the nod over Langerak, he answered: “I had to make that choice, Jones is playing in Holland, and I saw him a lot of times.
“He plays every game for a few years, very well, so I think he deserves a chance.
“I spoke to him. He was very motivated.
“What I already said, already about (Tim) Cahill, it’s important players play but for goalkeepers (it’s) even more important.
“Langerak is a good goalkeeper, I remember him from time in Germany with Borussia Dortmund but he hasn’t played for a long time.
“I’m happy he’s playing now.
“For the goalkeepers, I haven’t made my final decision yet. Now, I want to see Jones at the squad and Vukovic and Ryan. It’s the same. You have to make choices; I gave you the reason, it’s not a definitive choice.”
It’s a testament to Australia’s depth in the No.1 jersey that Adam Federici and Mark Birighitti find themselves so far down the pecking order despite being at Premier League club Bournemouth (albeit not playing at the moment) and Dutch outfit NAC Breda.
It’s also a fabulous recognition for Vukovic, who 12 months ago was on the road to the season of his career at Sydney FC, and suddenly, arguably, finds himself as the Socceroos No.2 thanks to maintaining his form in Belgium with Genk.
The case for: An elastic, talented goalkeeper with impeccable distribution, Ryan has been a cornerstone of the Socceroos for four years. Valencia proved a learning experience, and he has rebounded spectacularly from that disappointment.
The case against: It’s hard to see anything but van Marwijk keeping everyone on their toes. Ryan doesn’t have the height, or the prowess at set pieces, that other more robust keepers do, but it hasn’t stopped him establishing himself as a PL custodian this season.
The case for: 28 games for fifth placed Genk this season in Belgium, who finished with a goal difference of +8. At 32 years of age, the former Central Coast, Perth Glory, Wellington, Melbourne Victory and Sydney keeper is in the form of his life, and a commanding presence between the sticks. He would let no one down. He has matured greatly as a keeper in recent years.
The case against: Ryan simply has the inside running and Vukovic is yet to make his international debut.
The case for: After biding his time at Liverpool, a move to Holland has worked brilliantly for the 191cm goalkeeper, starting at NEC Breda, and then at Feyenoord, where has played 59 league games in two seasons, finding the consistency he lacked earlier in his career.
The case against: It’s been four years since an international appearance, and after making his debut in 2007, Jones only tasted Socceroos action five times between then and 2014, with three caps coming off the bench.