Newcastle Jets coach Branko Culina has cast doubts over the wisdom of taking his “underdone” star Ben Kantarovski to the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Colombia.
Culina also said he was keeping his fingers crossed that Kantarovski's form in the forthcoming A-League season would not be compromised after claiming that the player might have come back to the game too soon.
The Young Socceroos skipper played his first competitive game in seven months on Monday when he was on the park for an hour in a 1-1 draw with Ecuador in Manizales.
Kantarovski, one of Australian football's brightest prospects, underwent knee reconstruction surgery in December and his participation at the world titles was confirmed less than a month ago.
It is a measure of 19-year-old Kantarovski's rising stature in the game that coach Jan Versleijen opted to take him to Colombia even though a cloud was hanging over his match fitness.
Versleijen's decision will make Culina follow the competition with a degree of trepidation.
”My personal view is I've got no idea why he is at the World Cup at the moment,” Culina said.
”The guy has come back from a knee reconstruction and - again in my opinion – he is still a month or so from playing football.
”He went to Denver for the team's preparation without having been cleared.
”He did not have one single minute of a practice match in seven months.
”He is underdone and I think playing in this World Cup would not do him justice.”
Culina made it a point to emphasise that he was not having a go at Versleijen or Football Federation Australia and he insisted that this was just a concern coming from a club coach who is primarily interested in the welfare of his players.
”It is important to look at the short and long term picture,” Culina explained.
”So it remains to be seen if Jan will get the best out of player who is coming back from major surgery.
”Ben knows my feelings about the risk of coming back too soon and perhaps suffering for it later on.
”We discussed this often enough but at the end of the day I've always left the decision to him.
”I've been lucky enough to coach at the Under-20 World Cup, my son Jason has played in it so I'm well aware of how important it is for any player's future.
”But I'm also aware that playing in a tournament without being ready for it can have an adverse effect.”
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