Lucas Neill still believes he will represent Australia at the World Cup in Brazil, despite being left out of the Socceroos squad to play Ecuador in an upcoming friendly.
Neill was omitted from the national squad by coach Ange Postecoglou during the week because he has failed to play regular football since he finished in the Japanese league in December. Neill signed with English Championship club Watford 24 hours before the squad was named, but it was too late for Postecoglou.
However, the 35-year-old is adamant being left out of the friendly, which will be played in London on Wednesday, is not the end of his international career, as he plans to compete in his third World Cup. “Of course, I’m extremely confident,” he said on Saturday.
“I believe in myself, my own ability, and what I do have is experience – and a lot of experience at that level. My goal now is to show fitness and form for my club.”
Neill said any player wanting to go to Brazil ought to take heart in Postecoglou’s declaration that he would select the World Cup squad based on performances.
“Ange is a very fair and honest manager,” Neill said. “If you’re playing – and playing well – you’re going to play regardless of where you play or how old you are.
“There is no discrimination, he’s brave enough to give young blokes a chance and, equally, he showed against Costa Rica, he’s not scared to pick the best team he thinks is going to win a game.
“I’ve had discussions with Ange which, out of respect to both of us, will remain confidential, but his message, which he’s said publicly, was he has his last opportunity to see people and [because] a lot of them are untested at the level we’re going to, he has to experiment.
“His message, to not only me but everybody is, ‘I need you playing regularly for your club and showing good fitness and form’.
“That’s not just a message to me, it’s a message for 30 or 40 guys who need to do that.
“Everybody, including myself, needs to focus on that and worry about themselves, worry about their domestic form to give themselves a great opportunity to be named in the final 23 and bring great fitness and form into a squad that will need to be very fit and in great form to be competitive in the group we’ve been pooled against.”
Neill signed with Watford after he kept fit by training with former team Blackburn for six weeks. He said the dog-eat-dog nature of the Championship, where players and clubs strive to be promoted to the English Premier League, would provide him with great preparation for Brazil.
“I’m playing in a very tough league – I think 20 of the 24 teams have had Premier League experience within the last six or seven years – so there’s a lot of big clubs in the Championship, a lot of very good players and every player is dreaming of making it to the promised land – the EPL,” he said.
“Every week the demand on players is huge, the energy levels and the pace of the game is at the highest tempo it can be, and I’m no different to those players dreaming of playing in the Premier League – I’d love another crack at it and, realistically, I think my best chance of that would be to be involved in a Championship team that gets promoted.
“I’m very excited. This as a great opportunity and I’m determined to play my part in Watford’s season.”