The stakes are definately increasing as we build towards the World Cup. As such, I will focus more on the players that have a shot at getting to Brazil. Club football has been quiet across Asia as most leagues have been completed for the season. Also winter break for some of the European leagues but matches continue in the big leagues of England and Germany. We continue to see more and more Aussies heading abroad, with another half a dozen players heading overseas this month. The group stages have been completed in the big European competitions as we move into the knockout phase with several Aussies still appearing.
Transfers:- No huge transfers in December but worth noting the move of a few younger players to strong European clubs, which bodes well for future years. With the transfer window opening in January, expect a little bit of scrambling to get first team football. Players like Rogic, Federici, Neill , Herd, Holman and Brosque all have some thinking to do.
Additions/changes to player database:
Patrick Antelmi (15 Mar 1994) – transferred to Wigan, England
Bryan Bran (2 Mar 1991) - transferred to FC Chabab, Netherlands
Spase Dilevski (13 May 1985) - transferred to ATM FA, Malaysia
Jordan Elsey (2 Mar 1994) - loan from Adelaide United to Kitchee, HK
Gian Mendez (TBC) - transferred to Valencia, Spain
Dimitar Mitkov (9 May 1996) - transferred to FK Vardar, Macedonia
Yahaya Musa (20 Dec 1986) - re-signed with Wilmington Hammerheads, USA
Alistair Quinn (1 Jun 1993) – transferred to NAC Breda, Netherlands
Josh Riis (10 Oct 1995) - transferred to Kidderminster Harriers, England
Kwane Yeboah (2 June 1994) - transferred from Brisbane Roar to Borussia Monchengladbach, Germany
Removed from player database:
England (Premiership) – Half way through the season, Mile Jedinak has still not missed a minute for Crystal Palace. He has certainly started becoming more comfortable at this level, not sure many people would have picked Mile to be our most prominent Premier League player in 2013/14 but full credit to him. Huge news with Brad Smith making his debut for Liverpool during the glut of games over the festive season. We know he appeared for England at junior level, but the Penrith born left-back will be heavily scouted in the lead up to the World Cup. Chris Herd did manage a few starts for Aston Villa, but continues to have minor injury setbacks and is another who has a critical six months ahead of him. His versatility is surely something that would be attractive to the Socceroos. Keepers Mark Schwarzer and Brad Jones remain on the bench at their respective clubs.
England (Championship) – coming to the end of December, both Shane Lowry and Scott McDonald were starting for Millwall. Neither is having a huge influence at the moment, but given the recent change in manager, they will be out to impress at club level. Rhys Williams has been in and out of the Middlesbrough starting eleven. A player that was probably considered a certainty for national honours, the Socceroo selection for the back four is extremely open. Goalkeepers Adam Federici (Reading) and Alex Cisak (Burnley) spent another month watching from the bench.
England (League One) – Bailey Wright (Preston North End), James Meredith (Bradford City) and Massimo Luongo (Swindon Town) all continue to perform exceptionally well. The question remains as to whether they are playing at a high enough level to force themselves into the Socceroos. That question will be answered over the next few months, but they can only control their personal form. Bradden Inman has returned to the starting eleven at Crewe Alexandria after a bit of a fall out with the boss. Neil Kilkenny has got back into the starting team at Preston North End while a face injury to James Wesolowski has seen him briefly sidelined.
Germany (Bundesliga) – Robbie Kruse has recently managed some starts at Bayer Leverkusen, and would now arguably be our most prominent club footballer globally. He is gaining some great experience leading into the World Cup. Mitch Langerak made his second start of the year during December. While he would be a certainty for the World Cup, he will be looking to secure the number one keeper role with the retirement of Mark Schwarzer.
Germany (2.Bundesliga) – former Brisbane Roar midfielder Ben Halloran finds himself regularly starting for Fortuna Dusseldorf and has had an encouraging month. Mathew Leckie is back on the scoring charts at FSV Frankfurt, while Nikita Rukavytsya has returned from injury.
Netherlands (Eredivisie) – while Tommy Oar has certainly shown his quality (is he ready for a big transfer?), the Utrecht story in December was surely the return to the starting line-up of midfielder Adam Sarota. Perfect timing with several months to make his case for a return to the Socceroos. Jason Davidson continues in the Heracles defence, now up to 15 starts this campaign.
Netherlands (Eerste Divisie) - making cameos from the bench seems to be a regular occurence for young Queensland striker Travis Cooper. He has now appeared 13 times for VVV Venlo. In the same league, Andrew Marveggio has made nine appearances for relegation threatened SC Telstar.
Austria (Bundesliga) – now 19 starts for James Holland at Austria Wien. Having had a good season or two, he is another player that will be looking to force himself from a squad player to a starter for the Socceroos.
Belgium (Pro League) – Mat Ryan added another two clean sheets to his season tally at Club Brugge. His outstanding form at club level has been recognised with the offer of a contract extension. Early days in his European career, but with the possible number one keeper at the World Cup on his resume, he is certainly on the radar of bigger clubs.
Scotland (Premier) – the development of young players Dylan McGowan (Hearts) and Jackson Irvine (Kilmarnock) continues with starts very week. Tom Rogic has returned to the Celtic squad after a calf injury. He to is one player that needs to carefully consider his amount of game time.
Switzerland (Super League) – perhaps a little under the radar, but Dario Vidosic (FC Sion) has done his World Cup chances no harm with a very solid few months since transferring to Switzerland.
Croatia (1.HNL) - Tomislav Mrcela has come from nowhere to now be a prominent defender for Hrvatski Dragovoljac. He has over 1000 minutes in game time this season. Osijek midfielder Steven Ugarkovic is currently in the starting line-up.
Greece (Super League) - while Apostolis Giannou has been seeing good game time at Panionios Athens, he needs to start banging some goals in to get the attention of the FFA selectors.
Portugal (Primeira Division) - Caleb Patterson-Sewell (Gil Vicente) has been patiently sitting on the bench waiting for his opportunity.
Romania (Liga 1) - keep your eyes on young striker Anthony Carter. After prolonged issues with his playing papers, he is now in the squad for CFR Cluj.
Japan (J League) – the season has now ended with Josh Kennedy (Nagoya Grampus) ending up with 2297 minutes and 12 goals in 25 starts. For me, he clearly has his injuries under control and a conversion rate that is better than average at both club and international level, he is an important player for the Socceroos.
India (I-League) – former Victory defender Mattew Foschini has been solid at Salgaocar however his team are struggling to get ponts. Sean Rooney has scored seven goals at table topping Bengaluru FC. Another former Brisbne Roar player, James Meyer has also been strong at Pune FC. After a few niggles, journeyman Simon Colosimo is back on the pitch for Dempo.
Qatar (Stars League) - Sasa Ognenovski (Umm Salal) is a dilemma for the Socceroos coach. He has the experience at both club and national level, he is playing regularly but pace is not his best attribute as he ages.
U.A.E (UFL) – our Aussies of Brosque, Holman, Celeski and Susak are all playing each week. Without starring, are they doing enough to get to Brazil?
Uruguay (Primera) - Richard porta continues to be very consistent. Twelve starts for four goals in his fourth stint at Nacional.
New Zealand (Premiership) - a quick break courtesy of a red card, Richie Cardozo (Waitakere United) managed to add to his goal tally during december.
Injuries:- take Carl Valeri and Adam Sarota off this list now!! Fortunately, not too much to report from a Socceroos perspective with the exception of Bozanic's ankle. Eli Babalj continues to struggle with his groin injury (OP I believe)
(UEFA Champions League) – as the group games were completed, a fairly significant month for our Aussies Abroad. Mark Schwarzer started the Chelseas tie against Steaua Bucuresti and kept a clean sheet. James Holland started the Austria Wien tie, although they were eliminated. Both Kruse and Langerak have progressed into the knockout phase.
(UEFA Europa League) – no Aussies appeared.
Reserves and Youth:-
Several young Aussies have been captaining their U21 teams - Gethin Jones (Everton) and Alex Grant (Stoke City). The Strain brothers at Aston Villa both recently appeared in the U21's while Paratore and Elder are reguarly appearing at U21 level. Curtis Good has been impressive at Newcastle U21's. Tom Beadling has been consistent at Sunderland U18's. A few Aussies appeared in Italy with Ikonomidis and Katsetis both seeing game time in the Primavera.
International level:- at the risk of offending, here is my current Socceroos squad for the World Cup. Ryan, Langerak, Galekovic, Franjic, Williams, McGowan, Wilkinson, Herd, Davidson, Wright, Bresciano, Jedinak, Valeri, Rogic, Oar, Milligan, Troisi, Vidosic, Cahill, Kruse, Leckie, Duke and Kennedy. Perhaps six of those positions are very debatable. I have leaned towards youth, leaving several seasoned Socceroos behind. Let's see what the next 3-4 months brings.
Socceroo (capped) of the month – certainly a stalwart when talking about the Socceroos. Mile Jedinak has had an amazing journey from Central Coast to Turkey to London. He finds himself as first named each week, captaining a team at Crystal Palace that will feel as though each game is critical if they are to avoid relegation. He has certainly stepped up and has no problem manning up to some of the biggest names in football.
Sept – Cahill, Oct - Vidosic, Nov - Ryan
Under (uncapped) - unknown to most football fans that follow the Aussies, Tomislav Mrcela is an interesting guy. Born in Australia, and after several years in the lower Croatian leagues, Mrcela has stepped up to the top league. Although his team are struggling, he has been a constant in a somtimes vulnerable defence.
Sept - Wilkinson, Oct - Konstantinidis, Nov - Luongo
Young player (U21) of the month – an U20 Socceroo, Travis Cooper's move to Holland caught many by surprise. At VVV Venlo, he mixes between the senior team and Jong. An impressive series of runs, hopefully that translates to more senior appearances for him in 2014.
Sept - Ikonomidis , Oct - Ugarkovic, Nov - Ryan Williams
For a full listing of our Aussies Abroad, please see the attachment.