Neill told he’s not in Aussie plans for World Cup
SYDNEY (AP) — Long-time skipper Lucas Neill has been told he’s not part of Australia’s plans for the World Cup.
Australia coach Ange Postecoglou on Tuesday confirmed the 36-year-old defender would not be included in the provisional 30-man squad announced next week.
Neill made his international debut in 1996 and has played 96 times for Australia, including the 2006 and 2010 World Cups. He became captain for the first time in 2006 and led the national team in 61 games, including the World Cup in South Africa and the qualifying campaign for Brazil.
But a lack of club football ultimately cost Neill his spot in the national team — the former Millwall, Blackburn and West Ham defender is on loan at Doncaster Rovers after signing a short-term contract with Watford in a last-ditch effort to prove his fitness to Postecoglou.
“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.”
Postecoglou, who took over as coach in October after Holger Osieck was fired in the wake of back-to-back 6-0 friendly defeats to Brazil and France, said it was important that he gave notice personally to Neill before the squad was made public.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Australia was drawn into a tough Group B in Brazil, where it will have play defending champion Spain, 2010 finalist Netherlands, and Chile.