The ageing brigade have played a huge role as Australia secured qualification to their fourth consecutive World Cup after a 3-1 aggregate win over Honduras on Wednesday night.
It was the 37-year-old Tim Cahill who scored a crucial brace to help the Socceroos progress past Syria in their first qualifying play-off, and a 33-year-old Mile Jedinak who fired home a hat-trick in the second leg against Honduras to secure the penultimate World Cup spot.
Mark Milligan, Nikita Rukavytsya and Danny Vukovic round out five players over the age of 30 in the squad, which boasts an average age of 27.5, that beat Honduras.
Coach Ange Postecoglou declared his desire to build a squad for Russia 2018 when he stepped into the role in 2013, and has done so with a mix of youth and experience.
With Postecoglou’s start as Australian boss five years past, the young players which he identified at the beginning of his reign are now coming into their own – and it’s time to begin to groom the next generation.
We take a look at five young Aussie players who could make an impression for the Socceroos at the 2018 World Cup, and beyond.
ALEX GERSBACH | ROSENBORG
Following a famous breakthrough for Sydney FC during his end-of-school exams back in 2014, the young left-back quickly established himself as a crucial part of the Sky Blue engine as they finished second in the 2014-15 season. Gersbach made a $500,000 move to current Norwegian premiers Rosenborg BK in January 2016, where he remains today.
With 33 appearances for his current club under his belt, along with two titles and the 2017 PFA Harry Kewell Medal for Australia’s best young player, the 20-year-old is making all the right noises.
Gersbach is one player who can challenge Aziz Behich for a spot on the left-hand side, and potentially keep the likes of Brad Smith out of the squad. The youngster has four international appearances to his name now, although his selection chances often fall victim to the unusual scheduling of the Norwegian competition, which runs from April till November.
DANIEL DE SILVA | CENTRAL COAST MARINERS
After a debut for Perth Glory at 15-years-old, a scuppered $2.5 million move to Roma, and a one-and-a-half season loan move to Dutch club Roda JC, 20-year-old attacking midfielder Daniel De Silva is reinventing himself at Central Coast Mariners.
Described by Mariners coach Paul Okon as one of the ‘most exciting and talented young Australian players’ in the game at present, De Silva has started every match for the Mariners so far this season, scoring a single goal which was voted the A-League’s round two’s Goal of the Round.
De Silva has made his desire to crack the Socceroos squad as soon as possible public, having been in the squad previously without making an appearance. He has two of Australia’s best in Aaron Mooy and Tom Rogic to contend with, but he has the potential to shake up the status quo come June.
JOSH BRILLANTE | SYDNEY FC
Humble beginnings at the now-defunct Gold Coast United and some good form at Newcastle Jets earned Brillante a move to Fiorentina back in 2014. After being hooked just 35 minutes into his debut for the Italian club was followed by some ill-fated loan moves elsewhere, the 24-year-old made his way back to Australia in 2015 with Sydney FC.
It was the right step to take for the holding midfielder, who, alongside fellow young Australian Brendon O’Neill, provided the bedrock for Sydney’s minor-major premiership double last season.
Brillante has had some experience in the Australian set-up, appearing for the Socceroos five times in total – four of those coming under Postecoglou back in 2014, where he played as both a defensive midfielder and right-back. It will be Brillante’s mission to have his name amongst the provisional 30 selected for the World Cup – it’s there the hard work begins.
TOM GLOVER | CENTRAL COAST MARINERS
A loan move down under to the Central Coast Mariners in June of this year came after the 19-year-old made 15 appearances for the Tottenham Under 23s last season, and tutelage from a world-class goalkeeper in Hugo Lloris.
A series of impressive performances has locked down a starting spot and are sure to have turned the right heads so far this season – but there is a huge task ahead of him to crack the World Cup side, given Mat Ryan has a mortgage on the No.1 jersey.
There are those behind Ryan, however, who float around the squad – the likes of Mitch Langerak and Danny Vukovic, along with Adam Federici and Eugene Galekovic, who make up a long list of quality Aussie keepers. Glover hasn’t made an appearance for the national side yet, but taking him along to Russia may be a valuable investment for the future.
JOE CALETTI | BRISBANE ROAR
The diminutive youngster burst onto the scene with Brisbane Roar last season, and made 21 appearances for the club since his debut back in February. At only 162cm, Caletti has shown the ability to utilise a low centre of gravity to skip away from more physically imposing players.
The 19-year-old has grown used to fighting for a spot in the line-up at Brisbane ahead of one of either Matt McKay or Thomas Kristensen – but to get a place ahead of incumbent Australian holding midfielders Jedinak and Milligan is another task entirely.
Despite not cracking the senior squad yet, Caletti has made 19 appearances for the Under 17s. If he can maintain his good form and stave off the effects of ‘second year syndrome’, he may be able to force the likes of Jimmy Jeggo out of the squad and prove a useful understudy to the old guard at Russia next June.