Australia’s leading role in the Asian Football Confederation was recognised when five Socceroos players were named in an Asian All-Star team.
They are goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, defender Lucas Neill, midfielders Brett Emerton and Tim Cahill and forward Harry Kewell.
The selection was published by Singapore’s respected daily newspaper The Straits Times on Friday.
But it was not all good news for Asian football’s highest ranked country.
The newspaper article suggested that Asia’s main three contenders at the FIFA World Cup were “so laden with ageing warriors” that they might not even see a silver lining in South Africa.
Australia, Japan and South Korea are relying too much on veteran players, the paper said, and will have their work cut out to reach the second phase of the tournament starting on June 12.
North Korea is seen as a rank outsider.
Australia is the best represented country in the Asian XI.
Next comes South Korea with three (defenders Cha Doo Ri and Lee Young Pyo and midfielder Park Ji Sung), Japan with two (defender Yuji Nakazawa and midfielder Keisuke Honda) and North Korea with one (striker Jong Tae Se).
But in a scathing assessment of Asia’s chances in South Africa, the newspaper said that age was not on the trio’s side.
“Take Harry Kewell, for instance. The 31-year-old saw his best days in a Leeds United shirt nearly a decade ago, yet is still the man Australia looks to for goals," the article declared.
“He may have found a second wind at Galatasaray in Turkey but his body, battered by a lifetime of injuries, is creaking.”
The report said the Socceroos have an unhealthy reliance on players who are on their last World Cup legs.
“Mark Schwarzer is 37, Lucas Neill is 32 while Mark Bresciano and Tim Cahill are both 30.”
Asia’s other contenders did not fare any better.
“Coach Takeshi Okada claims Japan is capable of reaching the semi-finals but the team still contains one-hit wonders like Junichi Inamoto, the travelling Samurai of European football who played for seven clubs in nine years,” the paper claimed.
Japan’s team was also labelled a “rag-tag collection of European has-beens and fading warhorses from the country’s domestic league”.
South Korea’s line-up appears “less geriatric” but contains at least six veterans from its famous 2002 World Cup run that ended in the semi-finals.
North Korea looks more coltish with an average age of 24, the report pointed out, and is counting on a clutch of players based in Japan.
Asia’s finest four have been drawn in tough groups in South Africa.
Australia is up against Germany, Ghana and Serbia; Japan plays the Netherlands, Denmark and Cameroon; South Korea meets Argentina, Greece and Nigeria while North Korea faces Brazil, Portugal and Cote d’Ivoire.
The odds are lengthening on Mark Schwarzer remaining at Fulham with Australia’s most capped player revealing Cottagers coach Martin Jol has not spoken to him “for quite some time” as he prepares for what he could his final game for the club on Monday morning (AEST).