6. Oliver Bozanic
The former Mariner began his senior career in Europe, and made the gruelling journey on loan around the English lower leagues, after failing to break into the first team at Reading. He returned to play for the Central Coast Mariners in 2010, and stayed for three seasons (winning an A-League Premiership and a Championship), but has spent the last one and a half seasons playing in the often wrongly derided Swiss Super League. Like Scott Chipperfield did for many years, Bozanic’s has found a lot of joy playing against top-level opposition in Switzerland, at FC Luzern. As league colleagues FC Basel terrorise so-called bigger and better clubs in the Champions League, Luzern have been prospering with Bozanic at the heart of their midfield. He scored 4 goals in their opening 5 matches last season, a result of being played in a much more advanced role than he carried out for Central Coast. One goal in particular, where he was forced to the byline, swivelled brilliantly, then finished from the tightest of angles, was simply astonishing.
Technically thorough and a gifted retainer of the ball, Bozanic has become an important player for the Swiss club; they were winless in their first 10 games of this current season in the league, a period coinciding with Bozanic’s injury-enforced absence. Since his return in early October, their results have improved markedly, and they’ll now be hoping to drag themselves off the foot of the table.
His involvement in Australia’s World Cup campaign was limited to just 111 minutes of action over the three matches, but at only 25 and safe with the guarantee of very regular playing time at Luzern, Bozanic will be confident he can play a bigger part for the Socceroos in the upcoming Asian Cup.
5. Mark Bresciano
At the end of last year, the FFA put their faith a new manager, and appointed Ange Postecoglou, only their second Australian appointment in nearly a decade. Postecoglou was determined to reshape the selection paradigm, and the implication was clear; the old guard were being phased out. With the exception of the evergreen Tim Cahill, Ange was freshening up the squad, and Mark Bresciano may have felt a little insecure as the squad sheet for Brazil was released. But he needn’t have been. Despite spending the first few months of 2014 unable to play due to a messy issue surrounding a breach of contract, in spite of the fact that he was playing in the relatively unknown Qatar Stars League, and even at the ripe old age of 34, his quality was impossible to ignore, and Bresciano was made Postecoglou’s midfield lynchpin.
He started two of Australia’s three group matches in Brazil, and was a calming, cultured influence in the centre of the park. With the Socceroos exploiting the quality and pace they had on the wings, and playing largely without an attacking central midfielder, Bresciano’s passing game was vital to Postecoglou’s approach. Drawing Spain, The Netherlands and Chile, Australia were going to be on the back foot in every match, and possession was going to be a scarce commodity Australia, so Bresciano’s accuracy and intelligent distribution was a crucial asset for Postecoglu. Australia were always heavy underdogs, and Bresciano only played 19 minutes in their final match against Spain, but in defiance of this, He ended up in the top 30 players for pass accuracy during the group stages, on point with 88% of his passes, only 2% worse than Xabi Alonso.
Bresciano, after a fine career in Italy, and now entering the twilight of his time as a player, hasn’t come home to play in the A-League. It goes without saying that he’d be a cherished asset for any team here. Sometimes difficult to keep track of in Qatar, this year Bresciano showed the world, on its biggest sporting stage, he remains a player of notable worth.
Words by Evan Morgan