Why Irvine should leapfrog Rogic for start against France


Australia is not blessed with an an over-abundance of football’s purveyors of the finer arts. It’s one reason they enter the 2018 FIFA World Cup among the rank outsiders ahead of Saturday’s opening game against France’s all-star ensemble in Kazan.

All of which makes it seem nigh on sacrilegious to say it ... but here goes anyway: Tom Rogic, unquestionably the Socceroos’ most inventive presence in recent years, should not start against France.

That might seem contrarian but it’s become clear in the four matches of Bert van Marwijk’s brief tenure that the Celtic playmaker is too often on a different wavelength to his teammates.

Where there is fluency, swagger and a penchant for regular servings of the spectacular in Scotland, there has been hesitancy, indecision and a possibly even a gnawing frustration in the green and gold since van Marwijk took charge, and even before.

Fully aware of Rogic’s myriad attributes, van Marwijk - who has granted him a total of 273 minutes in games against Norway, Colombia, Czech Republic and Hungary - appears to be running out of patience for him to ignite.

Sentimentality is not in the Dutchman’s playbook and it’s fast becoming clear that Jackson Irvine, Rogic’s long-time friend and former teammate at Celtic Park, is in line to snatch his starting spot against Didier Deschamps’ men.

Where Rogic has a tendency to over-complicate and concede possession with one touch too many, Irvine offers directness, simplicity and seems to operate in greater harmony with those around him.

He has garnered 130 minutes so far under van Marwijk, scoring against Norway and having a hand in both goals against the Magyars in Budapest.

He has 19 caps for two goals to Rogic’s 36 for seven, and while the latter dug deep to flourish at Celtic with back-to-back trebles over the past two seasons and UEFA Champions League football, Irvine has taken the unglamorous route to recognition.

After just a single senior appearance at Celtic he went on loan to Kilmarnock, subsequently joining Ross County and Burton Albion in an exposition of the unfashionable.

He’s come off a 35-game season with Hull City and his gentle knocks on the door of van Marwijk’s starting line up are, it seems, likely to be heeded on the grandest stage of all.

Irvine, by his own admission, doesn’t possess Rogic’s dizzying repertoire.

But he knows how to break the game down to its component parts.

He makes Frank Lampard-like runs into danger areas, with 12 Championship goals in 76 appearances.

Where Rogic can both bewilder and befuddle, Irvine’s all for straight-forward solutions.

He could offer both dependability and a measure of dynamism in an advanced midfield deployment against the French in a match up of his wildest dreams.