Two of the A-League Men’s leading coaches have expressed concerns about Australia’s ability to develop elite-level footballers after Socceroos coach Graham Arnold opted to call up Perth Glory forward Bruno Fornaroli.
Uruguayan-born Fornaroli, 34, was a surprise inclusion for the Socceroos’ two remaining World Cup qualifiers against Japan and Saudi Arabia after recently gaining Australian citizenship.
The move is one that could shape the Socceroos’ hopes of automatic qualification for Qatar at a time when they are desperately short of quality in the forward line.
Adam Taggart is out injured, Jamie Maclaren will miss the Saudi clash in Jeddah due to the fact he is getting married, while Nikita Rukavytsya’s vaccination status has reportedly prevented him from receiving a call-up.
Melbourne Victory’s Nick D’Agostino is in line for a debut cap and his coach Tony Popovic, who worked with Fornaroli at Perth, labelled the selection of the Glory forward as a “wildcard”.
“It also probably shows the amount of injuries that we have and strikers that are not available and the strikers that we don’t have playing at the highest level,” he said.
Popovic said young Australians weren’t getting enough games under their belts early in their careers to develop like their European counterparts.
He also indicated the pathways for young Australians to play at an elite level in Europe had diminished.
Of the 27 players in Arnold’s squad, only Ajdin Hrustic (Eintracht Frankfurt, Germany) and Mat Ryan (Real Sociedad, Spain) are playing in one of Europe’s top five leagues. Ten of the squad play club football in the A-League Men.
“When we played in the World Cup in 2006, we basically had, correct me if I’m wrong, maybe 22 out of 23 players in the squad that played top flight football in Europe,” Popovic said.
“Times have changed and we don’t have that anymore.”
While not criticising Arnold’s decision to call up Fornaroli, Western Sydney boss Mark Rudan said there were issues with Australia’s talent production line.
Rudan suggested Australian football hadn’t adapted with the times.
“Around the world players are still being developed so (societal changes) can’t be an excuse for us in this country,” he said.
“The more I go around different parts of Australia all you hear is: ‘they (kids) have got iPads and other things to do’.
“It’s about how we teach them… a good player can play in any system – the AIS taught me that.
“Our program was individually based so we would find a solution wherever we played.
“Everyone talks about the Dutch (influence) and they took the context wrongly.
“That was about principles of play rather than a system and that should have been addressed by the people in charge.”
Australia play Japan at Accor Stadium in Sydney on Thursday.