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Cornthwaite eyes first-team role

Robert Cornthwaite hopes Wednesday’s friendly with Romania will serve as an audition for Australia’s World Cup qualifier against Oman.

Australia coach Holger Osieck has named a largely European-based squad for the friendly in Malaga, including Fulham’s Mark Schwarzer, Aston Villa’s Brett Holman and Dinamo Moscow’s Luke Wilkshire.

With captain Lucas Neill suspended for the clash with Oman in March, Chunnam Dragons linchpin Cornthwaite wants to establish himself as a suitable replacement alongside Sasa Ognenovski in the heart of defence.

“There’s a good opportunity for centre backs at the moment,” he said.

“Lucas has done a fantastic job, Sasa and Spira (Matthew Spiranovic) have been around a while as well, and there’s a couple of young boys that are putting their hands up and playing well for their clubs.

“It’s a competitive position, so when you get your chance you’re really going to have to take it.”

Spiranovic is injured, while Ognenovski was omitted from the squad to allow opportunities for Cornthwaite, Middlesbrough’s Rhys Williams and Ryan McGowan, who completed a move to Chinese side Shandong Luneng last month.

Cornthwaite’s international career seemed dead and buried following a sole appearance in 2009 under former boss Pim Verbeek before an unexpected call-up as injury cover for November’s friendly with South Korea.

The former Adelaide United player was rushed into the starting line-up before scoring the winning goal against South Korea and duly earned selection for December’s East Asian Cup qualifiers in Hong Kong.

“I’ve been lucky enough over the last couple of months to play a few games for the national team, but to get a call up to a very, very strong side is something I’m excited about,” he said.

“I was always hopeful and confident in my ability, but to come in and start four matches and score a couple of goals – the boss has had a few nice words to say about me, which is always nice – is a good start.

“I’ve got to make sure that I kick on now. I’ve got my toe in the door and I want to make sure that I put my best foot forward and continue along this path.”

Mon 4 February, 2013
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