Jedinak preferred to Cahill as Socceroos captain
TERRIGAL, Australia (AP) — Crystal Palace midfielder Mile Jedinak will lead Australia at the World Cup after getting the nod over Tim Cahill to replace long-term captain Lucas Neill.
Australia coach Ange Postecoglou announced the decision Wednesday, five days ahead of the Socceroos’ last friendly on home soil before the squad leaves for Brazil.
The 29-year-old Jedinak was a mainstay for Palace last season, playing every game until he had to be replaced due to a groin strain during the last Premier League match.
Jedinak has played 43 times for Australia and was considered a longer-term option than 34-year-old Cahill, the New York Red Bulls star who will be playing at his third World Cup.
“It is a privileged position and an accolade he richly deserves after the incredible job he has done at Crystal Palace in the toughest club competition in world football,” Postecoglou said. “Mile Jedinak embodies everything that is great about Australian football and Australia as a nation.
“He has risen to the top ... and done it the hard way from humble beginnings where he has battled and believed in himself to overcome the odds with an enormous work ethic and passion for what he does. I have no doubt he will lead the team with distinction in Brazil.”
Postecoglou told the 36-year-old Neill before unveiling the extended 30-man World Cup squad last week that he wasn’t in the Socceroos’ future plans.
Jedinak, who played in a defeat to Germany in 2010 in his only previous World Cup match, will be only the fourth Australian to lead the Socceroos at football’s marquee tournament, following Peter Wilson (1974), Mark Viduka (2006) and Neill (2010).
Cahill and Mark Bresciano, who is also going to his third World Cup, were appointed as vice-captains.
Jedinak led Australia for the first time during a 4-3 loss to Ecuador in a friendly in London in March.
“To be handed the responsibility of captaining my country at the World Cup is humbling, yet incredibly exciting,” Jedinak said. “It is an honor to be named captain but it is also a huge responsibility and I look forward to providing leadership for the team along with Tim and Mark as we take on some of the biggest nations in world football.”
Australia plays South Africa in a friendly on Monday before leaving for South America.
The Australians were drawn into a difficult Group B with defending champion Spain, 2010 runner-up Netherlands and Chile and are considered long shots to advance to the knockout stages in Brazil.
Postecoglou said Jedinak’s lead-from-the-front mentality was crucial to the selection.
“He’s led a group of players and a team in the English Premier League that many had written off. A lot of those characteristics apply to us right now and I know that when we get to Brazil and face up to the challenges we need to face up to, Mile and Timmy and Mark will be leading from the front,” he said. “I’ve challenged these guys as well to have their best World Cup ever.”