Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou dropped the biggest hint yet that captain Lucas Neill could be overlooked for the upcoming friendly against Ecuador by confirming the squad will have a "new look".
Postecoglou told media on Monday he had settled on the 23-man squad for the March 5 friendly against the Andean nation in London and says he will use the match as an opportunity to trial a number of untested and fringe players who are playing regular football.
The Socceroos coach did not confirm or deny Neill's inclusion from the upcoming squad but reiterated his selection criteria as favourable to those who are playing regular football at a strong level.
"Players that are playing regularly, playing decent football, it's important I give them an opportunity," Postecoglou said.
Neill has not played a senior match since parting ways with Japanese club Omiya Ardija in November last year but has spent the past few weeks training with English Championship club Blackburn Rovers and played a game in their youth team.
Neill's uncertainty within the national team was even more telling with his absence at the launch of the Socceroos strip for the 2014 World Cup on Monday. Despite captaining the national team for the past seven years, the veteran defender was not present at the launch or included in the large-scale imagery of the new kit along the likes of Tim Cahill, Josh Kennedy, Tom Rogic and Matthew Leckie.
Though regardless of whether he is dropped for the match against Ecuador, it will not signal the end of his hopes of playing in a third World Cup as Postecoglou said his next squad will be more experimental.
"I haven't spoken to any players, we'll announce the squad next week," Postecoglou said. "If players miss this squad it doesn't mean they're ruled out, no, and there will probably be a couple that I know pretty well that I might not select. It's certainly not running a line through anybody at the moment. Certainly, as I said, I want to use this game as an opportunity to start building the team and players will have the opportunity of being a part of that."
The match at The Den in London will be the final friendly before Postecoglou announces his 30-man preliminary squad for the World Cup in mid May which will be followed by warm-up games against Croatia in Brazil and a farewell game in Sydney against a yet to be named opponent.
"This Ecuador game will be an important one for me, there will be a little bit of a new-look to the side for this one and that will kind of give me an indication of where we're heading beyond that," Postecoglou said. "From my perspective, it was about really using this game as a little bit of a test case of how we're going to look moving forward and that means bringing in some players that either haven't been involved before, haven't been involved a lot and giving them an opportunity."
Former Central Coast Mariners defender Trent Sainsbury will have to wait until May to make his debut for national team after being ruled out of the Ecuador match after suffering a knee injury. The 22-year-old injured his knee cap in his first game for Dutch club PEC Zwolle and will not be risked by Postecoglou against Ecuador.