Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou has revealed that veteran defender and former captain Lucas Neill will not be included in the Australian squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil in June.
Neill returned to competitive football with Doncaster in the English Championship in March, after being without a club since he left Omiya Ardija in November, and was one of the few bright spots in the struggling side, but Postecoglou said in a statement that he does not believe Neill showed enough to earn a trip to Brazil for a third World Cup.
“In the end I just had to make a decision not so much about the recent history but the last six months in terms of form and fitness,” Postecoglou said.
“There just wasn’t enough evidence there for me to say he’d be able to hold up in a World Cup.
“It was both a combination of the lack of regular football and the little niggles he got that made the decision for me.”
Neill made his debut for the Socceroos all the way back in 1996 and accumulated 96 caps for the national side, while plying his trade for Blackburn Rovers, West Ham, Everton, Galatasaray, Al Jazira and Sydney FC.
The 36-year-old was named Australian captain after the international retirement of Mark Viduka following the 2006 World Cup and he maintained that positioned for almost seven years; breaking the Socceroos record for the most appearances as captain and leading the team to the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Postecoglou said that he personally informed Neill of his decision and stressed how difficult it was to leave the Socceroos legend out of the 2014 FIFA World Cup squad.
“I had a conversation with Lucas regarding the World Cup squad and obviously before I announced the 30-man squad next week I thought it was important for me to speak to him directly,” Postecoglou said.
“I informed him that he hasn’t made the 30, from my perspective paying due respect to the fact that he’s been the captain for six years and the captain of the World Cup campaign so far.
“It was difficult, he’s worked damn hard to get himself ready and available; he’s shown an enormous determination to go to this World Cup.
“You can see why he’s played for his country as many times as he has and why he was a leader, he’s gone down fighting.
“My discussions with him were purely about the World Cup and he has every intention of continuing to play on and play next year, probably in Europe.”
Mile Jedinak, who captained Australia in their friendly loss to Ecuador in March, is expected to be named captain for Australia’s World Cup campaign.