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Wilkinson expects Neill to survive Socceroo cull

The newcomer to the international set-up isn't buying into speculation about the future of his fellow defender as Ange Postecoglou's new regime takes shape

Socceroos hopeful Alex Wilkinson has backed embattled veteran Lucas Neill to prove his doubters wrong in next Tuesday's international friendly against Costa Rica.

Wilkinson, who attended one training camp under former coach Pim Verbeek but has never played for the national side, is one of the contenders to replace Neill in central defence.

But while the K-League-based defender admits it would be a dream come true to make his Australia debut in front of friends and family in Sydney, he doesn't expect his first cap to arrive at Neill's expense.

"I'm not going to comment on the past games and the past central pairings, I'm just going to do the best I can this week and if I can manage to get any game time fantastic, but if not I'm just grateful to be here and hopefully do enough to impress Ange and warrant a call up in the future," Wilkinson said on Tuesday.

"I haven't met Lucas yet, this will be the first time I've met him and he's not in camp yet.

"I think he's a fantastic leader, a fantastic player, he has been for the best part of 10 years now with the national team.

"In regards to all the pressure I mean players are used to pressure and I'm sure he'll do very well this week and lead the team as he always does and do a great job against Costa Rica."

Pressed on whether his own inclusion in the squad will put extra pressure on Neill, Wilkinson replied: "No I don't think so, every squad that's been named always has four or five central defenders in it and we're all here to hopefully play but he's the captain of the team and a fantastic player.

"I'm just looking forward to meeting him and learning off him, he's got so much experience and I'm sure he can help me in a number of ways.

"He's someone definitely that I've looked up to."

The 29-year-old, who was a member of the Under-17 and Under-20's national teams coached by new Socceroos boss Ange Postecoglou, admits he feared his chance of playing international football may have passed.

"It was a bit of a surprise for me a few weeks ago when I got the call," Wilkinson said.

"I'm getting a bit older now at 29 and probably thought my time has passed by but I guess you're always hopeful and I was playing regularly in (South) Korea (for Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors) each week and the team's doing quite well so I guess that helped me.

"I'm just really grateful to get a call up and just really looking forward to the week now and meeting all the boys and having a positive week and hopefully it's not the last time."

Wilkinson stressed the importance of a strong performance against Costa Rica in Postecoglou's first game at the helm after taking over from Holger Osieck.

"It's hugely important and Ange will spend the week drilling into us how he wants to play, what formation he wants to play and the certain aspects of the game that he wants to bring to the Socceroos," he said.

"It'll be a busy week and I'm sure on Tuesday he'll be looking for a good performance and I'm sure all the boys will be pretty pumped up because it's a clean slate for everyone and everyone's got to prove themselves again."

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