Life's peachy for Beauchamp
Australia's World Cup 23 had to be one of the most predictable of all of this year's competing nations. But Pim Verbeek's announcement this week did throw up one shock. Marc Fox reports.
The most stunned recipient of a Socceroos World Cup ticket had to be central defender Michael Beauchamp, who has only sporadically been involved in the national team set-up over the past two seasons but has made the Australian World Cup squad.
Beauchamp moved to United Arab Emirates side Al-Jazira mid-season - from former Danish champions AAB where he had clearly failed to live up to expectations – but only established himself in the side two months ago.
Even when the 29-year-old was named in the 27-strong group to travel to South Africa, most pundits still thought he was making up the numbers.
But the former Central Coast Mariners defender, after a run of indifferent fortune since leaving the A-League following the 2006 World Cup finals, has found himself in the right place at the right time in South Africa.
Verbeek has been encouraged by his form and fitness in training, and impressive second-half substitute appearances in the warm-ups wins over New Zealand and Denmark convinced the Dutchman that Beauchamp was worthy of the most unlikeliest of World Cup reprieves.
Indeed, Beauchamp even seems set to be Verbeek's third choice central defender in South Africa behind captain Lucas Neill and veteran Craig Moore, who's place is under growing pressure despite an assured 75 minutes against the Danes.
While Moore, who will retire after the finals, is winding down his international career, the time could be perfect for Beauchamp to stamp his mark at the elite level.
After disappointing spells in Germany (with Nuremburg), Denmark and the Middle East, he has recently agreed to return to the A-League with newcomers Melbourne Heart and is certain to be a happier player for it.
There is also a worrying lack of an obvious successor to Moore for whoever will replace Verbeek as Socceroos coach after South Africa.
There's no doubt that the cards have fallen in Beauchamp's favour for his second straight World Cup finals.
The mid-season money was on Leeds United's Patrick Kisnorbo partnering Neill in the heart of Australia's defence before a season-ending knee injury put pay to his World Cup aspirations.
Even then nobody was talking about Beauchamp, especially with the improving Mark Milligan in Verbeek's plans and wildcard Sasa Ognenovski, the uncapped K-League-based defender, receiving a shower of media attention.
Ognenovski was never seriously in Verbeek's thoughts, but Milligan has made the cut ahead of English-based converts Rhys Williams and Shane Lowry.
The versatile Williams' ongoing battle with injury has cost him his place on the plane, while Aston Villa youngster Lowry - the former Ireland under-21 play - suffered a dip in form since January after joining Leeds on loan and being played out of position at left-back by Simon Grayson.
All that meant Verbeek returned to Beauchamp for the player's third major international tournament.
Beauchamp told AAP after his call-up: "Life can sometimes be crazy, but in football you sometimes need a bit of luck. You just need the right coach to see you and give you that opportunity."
Asked whether, in his first year or so in the role, he had noticed a positive shift in the way Australia's younger players were being developed, Berger responded, "Slowly".
The concern over the pace of Australia's youth development is matched by the ongoing worry over the international futures of half of Pim Verbeek's first choice side.
Over the weekend, former Socceroos captain Craig Moore confirmed his final international retirement and suggested that there would be five or six others quitting the national team set-up after the World Cup with him .
Left-sided defender Scott Chipperfield will almost certainly hang up his international boots then, while the superb form of 37-year-old goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer for Fulham might still not be sufficient to delay his Socceroos swansong.
Kewell, however, has said he hasn't ruled out playing in Brazil 2014 let alone Qatar 2011, a welcome boost for the yet undecided successor to Verbeek.
Like Moore, Kewell is still unsure where he'll be playing next season (he has yet to be offered an extension with Gala after spending four months sidelined following groin surgery) but remains confident about his match fitness for South Africa come June.
Copyright © Marc Fox and Soccerphile.com