Captain Jedinak facing axe despite starring role
EVEN after his heroic France performance, Mile Jedinak is no guarantee to retain his first XI spot as Bert van Marwijk contemplates the right midfield balance for Denmark.
Jedinak put in a true captain's display after his 11th hour call up, calmly stepping up to stroke him an equalising penalty while stamping his mark with an early statement tackle as Les Bleus appeared physically intimidated by Australian.
Massimo Luongo started the two friendly lead-ins alongside Aaron Mooy and looked set to start in Kazan but last week's second half against Hungary - when Jedinak's introduction for Luongo triggered an improved performance - gave the coaching staff food for thought.
Van Marwijk left it until the death to make a call, with players unsure of the first XI after their final training session on Friday, as the coaching staff weighed up the pros and cons of Aston Villa's Jedinak versus QPR's Luongo.
In the end the coaching staff made a call less than 24 hours before kick-off, believing that Jedinak's threat from set pieces and his leadership made him a more valuable commodity against France.
While we'll never know how it would've gone with Luongo at the base of midfield, the Jedinak decision appeared to be justified as he caused havoc in France's penalty area from Mooy's set pieces.
He got the glancing header which almost led to a Corentin Tolisso own goal, before panicked Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti literally fisted the ball as it was set to sail over his head toward Jedinak.
The leadership issue is intriguing.
Comparing their impact in open play, Luongo is more mobile and provides offensive impetus, with a neat pass, an eye for goal and an ability to skip past players. Jedinak offers more defensive surety.
Jedinak would have duelled with Tottenham's Christian Eriksen for three years during his days at Crystal Palace, having both debuted in the Premier League in 2013-14.
But the post-game huddle at Kazan Arena was symbolic, as Jedinak rounded up his 22 teammates and praised their efforts but implored them to keep going with Denmark and Peru standing between the Socceroos and a knockout berth.
While it is customary for the captain to attend the official pre-game press conference, it was winger Mathew Leckie who beside van Marwijk, prompting the press pack to presume Jedinak would make way for Luongo and Trent Sainsbury to wear the armband.
But van Marwijk bristled at the suggestion of mind games, nor would he offer any hints for the second game in Samara.
"I was not bluffing but I will never answer these questions. Maybe next time (at the presser) another player is sitting next to me, maybe he (Jedinak) will sit next to me,'' van Marwijk said.
"You can write want you want and think what you want. For me it is not an issue."