Germany is home for surprise squad inclusion
Germany is home to this year’s World Cup finals, but it has also been home for six years to one Australia’s biggest surprise selections in Guus Hiddink’s 23-man squad.
Germany is home to this year-s World Cup finals, but it has also been home for six years to one Australia-s biggest surprise selections in Guus Hiddink-s 23-man squad.
Joshua Kennedy is tall, rangy lad who played in Australia-s only appearance at a major World Cup tournament (U-17 World Championships in 1999) and is headed for the Bundesliga next season, after signing mid-season for Nuremberg.
One of two players in the squad that is yet to be capped at full international level, Kennedy can-t quite believe what has happened and admitted that his fiancée (Australia basketball star Jacinta Hamilton) is probably more excited than he is at the moment.
"I don-t think it has sunk in properly,” said Kennedy from Germany. “I think my girlfriend is a lot more excited and my parents are obviously over the moon. “It just doesn-t seem real at the moment, possibly because I am still in Germany. I think when I get home it might hit me.”
It will be a very hectic few weeks for Kennedy, with his team Dynamo Dresden having to win on Sunday to have any chance of avoiding relegation to the German Regional Leagues, while he is due to marry Hamilton the day after the Greece match.
But no doubt a lot of his thoughts will be on returning to Germany and hopefully some role in the Socceroos quest for World Cup glory.
“I would be over the moon just to be able to step foot onto the ground and I am just thrilled to be in the team,” said Kennedy. “Of course it-s every players ultimate goal to play at a World Cup. It didn-t seem possible until a couple of months ago and its all come very, very quickly, but definitely it-s the ultimate goal of every player.
While his selection has raised eyebrows in some quarters, assistant coach Graham Arnold believes Kennedy offers the team something different if the team needs to change its style during games. At 6-4, he is Australia-s answer to England-s Peter Crouch and possesses a strong aerial game that will pose a threat to defences.
"He (Crouch) is probably a little bit bigger than me and I do have strength in the air, but I-d like to think there's more to my game. I-d like to think I can do on the ground what the smaller guys can do."
Indeed Kennedy-s inclusion shouldn-t surprise too many people, given that he has played for the three men-s aged national teams, which included being a member of the Qantas Joeys team that lost 8-7 on penalties to Brazil in the final of the FIFA U-17 World Championship in New Zealand.
"Why not a repeat of that?" he quipped (about the 0-0 draw). The same can-t be said for the penalties though.
"We were all 16 or 17 at that time and to go that far and lose on penalties was a heart-breaking experience. But it was also a learning experience."
It wasn-t long after that he took off to Germany to play with Bundesliga outfit VfL Wolfsburg. He quickly rose in the ranks there and at just 18 he made his Bundesliga debut. However his appearances in the first team were rare and he was loaned out to several lower division teams to get regular first team action.
This is his second season with Dynamo Dresden, where he has been a regularly one of the first named in the team. However it has been a struggle for Dynamo this season and their final game is a must win game or they are relegated.
“We must beat Rostock on Sunday and hope that Unterhaching loses if we are to avoid the drop. We-ll need a bit of luck and to play well.”
Asked if in the six years in Germany has he noticed any greater respect for Australian players, Kennedy believes many people were awakened by Australia-s performances at the Confederations Cup in 2005 and gained greater respect.
“I think Australia is taking more seriously now than five or six years ago and that we are being recognized as a footballing country.”
So will that respect translate into a good showing in Germany?
"If we can go there and put in three good performances in the first round, and maybe win a game or two, that would be sensational," he said.
"It's the World Cup, and anything can happen."
One of the first things he will have to do is meet a lot of the players and the coaching staff for the first time, something that excites him rather than intimidates him. He only knows to players in the squad; Luke Wilkshire from his days at the AIS and Archie Thompson when they were together at Carlton.
“Will be absolutely amazing,” when asked what it would be like to play under Hiddink. “He is world renowned as a coach and with PSV he did his job again, so I am looking forward to working with him and the whole team.”
"It will probably take me a couple of days to feel at home, but I'm sure the players will make me feel welcome.”