Trent Sainsbury and Mile Jedinak.
Trent Sainsbury and Mile Jedinak.

Captaincy of Socceroos remains up for grabs

TRENT Sainsbury says taking on the Socceroos captaincy at the World Cup would be a cherished honour but he won't be too bothered if the opportunity passes him by.

There's no doubt that Mile Jedinak, the long-term Australian skipper, is the spiritual leader of the team.

He's led the side since 2013, captaining the Socceroos at the 2014 World Cup and through the 2015 Asian Cup triumph.

But there is a question over the 33-year-old starting against France on June 16, with Sainsbury waiting in the wings to lead Australia should Jedinak start as a substitute.

In what could be a slight hint on the starting XI on Saturday, and ultimately the captaincy battle itself, Aaron Mooy and Massimo Luongo have been paired together in small-side games at training.

According to Daniel Garb, the pairing of the duo could hint that Bert van Marwijk is planning on playing them in the heart of Austrlia's midfield together, and subsequently leaving Jedinak out.

The bearded general was paired with Jackson Irvine, who is also on the fringes of the starting XI.

These pairings may be a sign that the captain is up against it to make the starting XI for the Socceroos' opener against France on Saturday.

That is unless Tom Rogic, who didn't train, is ousted.

The stopper wore the armband for the first time in Australia's 4-0 defeat of Czech Republic earlier this month, taking over from defensive partner Mark Milligan as Jedinak's deputy.

Intriguingly, he held on to the role after half-time against Hungary when Jedinak came onto the pitch.

Sainsbury said he tried to give it to Jedinak but was denied.

"I offered up the armband but the boss said no," Sainsbury said. "But I'm here to play football, not worry about an armband.

Australia's Trent Sainsbury, centre, and Mile Jedinak, right, challenge Hungary's Marton Eppel for the ball.
Australia's Trent Sainsbury, centre, and Mile Jedinak, right, challenge Hungary's Marton Eppel for the ball.

"It'd be a nice little thing to put on the CV, but at the same time for me it's not important to be captain. It's important to be out there playing.

"I think (if) Mile starts he'll be the captain."

Speaking before his arrival in Russia, Jedinak praised Sainsbury's conduct as skipper against Czech Republic.

"He did a fantastic job," said the Villa man.

"He's someone who's well respected in the group. He's vocal, he's got that presence.

"He's someone that's doing all the right things. Trying to lead by example, that needs to happen."

Sainsbury returned the favour, saying he didn't deserve to be held in the same esteem as the midfielder.

"He's been a great influence and leader among the group. The boys respect him immensely," he said.

"The presence he brings to the squad is huge. Even if he's not playing he's a great leader off the pitch as well."

Sainsbury, 26, will appear at his first World Cup, having been denied a place in Brazil after a freak knee injury on a pitch sprinkler.

Australian coach Head Coach Bert van Marwijk (centre) speaks with his players during a training session at the Socceroos' training base.
Australian coach Head Coach Bert van Marwijk (centre) speaks with his players during a training session at the Socceroos' training base.

Given the twists and turns on the road to this moment, he said was not counting his chickens by calling himself a World Cup player yet.

"It's a nice feeling to be here finally in the squad but I'm not out on the pitch yet," he said.

"(Until) I'm out on that pitch and I can say I've actually been to a World Cup and played at a World Cup, I won't be satisfied."

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