|By JAMES RANSON
Australia striker Archie Thompson has heralded the country's next generation of stars ahead of Wednesday's friendly against South Korea in Hwaseong.
Much has been made of Australia's ailing 'golden generation' and the lack of quality coming through to replace it, but Thompson is excited to see the likes of Tom Rogic and Aziz Behich strut their stuff on the international stage for the first time.
The duo are part of a youthful Socceroos squad with boss Holger Osieck keen to give chances to a host of other untried players like Eli Babalj and the relatively inexperienced Tommy Oar and Matthew Leckie.
Melbourne Victory forward Thompson was particularly taken by the Central Coast Mariners' 19-year-old star Rogic, who has risen through the ranks from a Futsalroo to the Socceroos set-up.
"With Rogic he's been a huge talent, I've been so impressed with how he's been playing," Thompson said.
"Especially last season too, there's signs of [Mark] Viduka about him the way he holds the ball he's strong, great touches.
"The future I think is very bright for the Socceroos."
Osieck has at times been criticised for his reticence to regenerate but has been an avid watcher of the A-League during his two years in charge of the Socceroos, and now looks set to test the waters against South Korea.
"We're excited to get some of the young guys who are a part of the camp to get a taste of what it's like to play for the Socceroos," Thompson said.
"It's [A-League] great for the younger players because they don't have to venture off at such an early age to have aspirations of playing for the Socceroos.
"You can still develop your football in Australia and you've got a guy like Holger whose watching the A-League and giving these players opportunities.
"That's the good thing about Holger because if you're performing he's not afraid to put you in and that's a good sign for the younger players."
Among those will be Behich, who is likely to slot in at the troublesome left-back position, vacated by David Carney, who was released from his club side Bunyodkor in September.
Thompson said he never anticipated ex-Victory team-mate Behich's transformation from a winger to a dangerous left-back at Melbourne Heart, but admitted he more than deserved his chance.
"He's flourished in that position and there's no hiding away from the fact that the Socceroos have always had a little bit of trouble in the left-back position," he said.
"David Carney is still trying to find a team and when he does I'm sure he'll be back but it's a tough position to fill and with Behich it's a good opportunity to show his worth.
"He's been one of [Heart's] best players over the past two seasons."
A rejuvenated Thompson has scored three goals in his past three internationals, including the winner against Iraq in the Socceroos last World Cup qualifier, and said he was hungry for more goals.
"Everyone loves scoring and especially for their country," he said.
"I'm in a bit of a spell at the moment and I want to keep it going so whatever game time I get on Wednesday I'll be trying to hit the back of the net again.
"It's a tough game, Korea technically and physically are a great team."