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Opinion

Langerak should be Australia's number one for June qualifiers

Mitch Langerak on Socceroos duty Source: Getty Images

Unless something changes in the coming weeks, Socceroos coach Graham Arnold is going to have a decision to make in June even if, the way things are going, it may end up being an easy one.

Mitch Langerak, who last appeared for the national team in 2017, is perhaps the best goalkeeper in Asia on current form and should be pushing Mat Ryan for a starting spot.

At the moment, however, Ryan is at Arsenal, one of the biggest clubs in the world, and is not playing.

There is not much prospect of that changing before the end of the season. And with Danny Vukovic being released from a contract that was soon to expire so he could return home to be with his pregnant wife, it is time to look again at the Socceroos' goalkeeping situation.

Australia have four World Cup qualifiers in the space of 12 days in Kuwait this June.

While the Socceroos are very much in control of the group with four wins from the first four games, they had expected to play three of the last four on home soil.

Everything should be fine still but given there has been virtually no international football since November 2019, and the final round of qualifiers are scheduled to start in September, Arnold will want everything in Kuwait to run as smoothly as possible.

National team coaches like to tell players that if they are not getting regular time at their club, then their international place will be in jeopardy.

Often, when it comes down to it, the stars are picked anyway. Goalkeepers are a little different however and when it comes to World Cup qualifiers, you really want someone in great form between the sticks.

Dropping Ryan, who has done nothing wrong, may not be an easy thing to do but making it much more palatable is the fact that Langerak is in a special vein of form - ”outstanding”, according to his coach at Nagoya Grampus, Massimo Ficcadenti.

It is a word that has been used with increasing regularity in Japan to describe the ‘keeper.

Regular readers of The World Game will remember that Langerak, who went to Japan in 2018, broke the J.League record for the most clean sheets in a season during the previous campaign. His goal remained unbreached no less than 17 times.

If anyone thought that was a flash in the pan then they should take a look at what has been going on in the J1 League so far this season.

In six games, Langerak has conceded just once - an own goal - to help his team maintain a perfect record and sit second behind defending champions Kawasaki Frontale.

Ficcadenti has lauded the Australian for his consistency and it seems at the age of 32, not that old for a goalkeeper, Langerak has found his home.

After a stop-start career in Europe with Borussia Dortmund, Stuttgart and Levante in Spain, the former Melbourne Victory goalkeeper has shown what he can do when settled in a team and playing week in, week out.

Arnold should bring that form and confidence into the Socceroos set-up and straight into the first team for June.

By then, Ryan will likely have played one competitive game in six months. Selecting the Brighton loanee would be a gamble and an unnecessary one given Langerak’s exploits.

It is also a perfect chance for Arnold to show all his players that if you are not playing well, or not playing at all, there are replacements.

Stick Langerak, the best goalkeeper in Asia at the moment, between the sticks this June and throw down the gauntlet to Ryan, and others, at the same time.