By PADDY HIGGS
Chris Herd appears to be running out of chances to force himself into Holger Osieck's Australia plans, as the Socceroos' 2014 World Cup qualification campaign gets "serious".
Australia take on Lebanon in an international friendly on September 6, in preparation for their crucial AFC qualifier against Jordan in Amman five days later.
Veteran attacker Tim Cahill has received his first Socceroos call-up since joining Major League Soccer outfit New York Red Bulls in July, while there are also returns for James Holland, Matt McKay, Jade North, Nikita Rukavytsya, Adam Sarota and Matthew Spiranovic.
The Socceroos are winless in four matches after August 15's 3-1 loss to Scotland in Edinburgh, and Osieck has abandoned any semblance of experimentation ahead of the meeting with Jordan.
Australia sit third in Group B of the fourth round of AFC 2014 World Cup qualifying, with two draws from as many games ensuring the Socceroos trail leaders Japan by five points and second-placed Iran on goal difference.
"Now it's getting really serious. We are close to our next qualifying [match], and in order to be well prepared we have an opportunity to have another game where I can still rehearse and have a look on some players in Lebanon, who play a similar style and we find similar playing conditions," Osieck told reporters on Wednesday.
"I'm pretty sure that we're going to be well prepared for the qualifier in Amman."
Those preparations will be without Aston Villa midfielder Herd, who withdrew from his third Socceroos squad before the 3-1 loss to Scotland in Edinburgh on August 15.
Herd has featured regularly for Villa this English Premier League season and scored in his side's League Cup win on Tuesday, but doubts have been raised on whether the 23-year-old wishes to play for the Socceroos or Scotland, for who he qualifies through parentage.
"… Despite the fact he played last night and could even have scored last night a very easy tap in, he was not convincing enough to get a call," Osieck said.
"I wanted to give him a chance to look how he does in our group. I wasn't actually convinced. I just wanted to open the door for him. Then he had to decline from invitations three times, so I never really got a chance to see him again.
"I think at present, I don't see him in a situation to help our team
When pushed on if Herd wanted to represent Australia, Osieck went on: "That is a question I can't answer. I went to see him Birmingham, I said it to him. He look committed, he wanted to play for Australia."
Osieck said he was comfortable in his selection of Japan-based defender Jade North and Melbourne Victory striker Archie Thompson, with the former having not played a first-team match for J.League strugglers Consadole Sapporo since July.
Thompson, meanwhile, has reportedly had a strong pre-season with Victory, and was the "exception" to Osieck's rule that his players be in match-fit condition.
Osieck revealed defensive midfielder Carl Valeri had been injured in Serie B club Sassuolo's season opener on Monday, while the German coach was delighted to have Cahill back in his squad.
"I haven't seen him play, the only thing I get is the reports. He is in the team, he plays regularly and I think it's pretty positive," he said.
"I had a lot of chats with him and he is very confident right now, very motivated."