What Bruno Fornaroli's selection says about the Socceroos

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For a World Cup qualification cycle that is explaining Australian football in the straightest possible terms, the Socceroos calling Bruno Fornaroli up this week is appropriate in the extreme.

As noted following the Socceroos' 2-2 draw with Oman in January, Australia's footballing story and why the men's national team are in currently in jeopardy of qualifying for Qatar is being told.

Even then, the fragility, the simplicity, the decisions borne of self-interest, and Australia's incapacity to examine it as a whole, can be seen through this one selection. Commentary on Australian football can often venture into the absurd, so let's try to bring matters into perspective.

Fornaroli is, arguably, the best striker in the history of the A-League Men's. Between his first game for Melbourne City and his broken ankle in 2017, he was a striking peak that otherwise had not been seen in the ALM and he made a lot of players around him look good.

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Having embedded and built a life in Australia, and clearly possessing a desire to represent the country, that Fornaroli was born in Uruguay does not make him any less Australian. It is his right.

To borrow a phrase, however, everywhere you turn there is evidence on a footballing level that some players are more Australian than others. That's what makes this Fornaroli selection so deeply intense an issue.

The Socceroos are gambling on a 34-year-old Fornaroli who, while still a force in the ALM, is a much different player now than before his ankle injury. Not for any old qualifier, either. These upcoming fixtures against Japan and Saudi Arabia are the biggest Australian football has had since the 2015 Asian Cup final.

In November, it was noted how the absence of Adam Taggart's skillset would have a big impact on Graham Arnold's Socceroos setup. His ability to incorporate teammates in attack has been sorely missed but, making that absence more pronounced, he is the Socceroos' only known quantity for this type of profile up front. The alternatives -- Jamie Maclaren, Mitchell Duke and the newly called-up Nicholas d'Agostino -- are far more conventional.

Just how profound an impact Taggart's absence would be was not foreseen, though. Australia's outcome-dependent, blunt approach to game means that ultimately, it has such little faith in similar footballers to Taggart, that it is more willing to, or worse still, has to call Fornaroli up.

In relation to Taggart's absence and what that means not only for who plays up front, but for the overall make-up of the team, Arnold has continually danced around the subject.

"When I first took over, obviously with the retirement of Timmy Cahill, Taggs was going to be a big part of what we did," Arnold said on Thursday upon the Socceroos squad announcement. "He started off that way and started scoring goals when we first started and obviously, [with] him being injured as you know, leaves us with Mitchell Duke and Jamie Maclaren."

Players like Taggart are quite visible exceptions to the rule that decision-makers in Australian football make it irrationally difficult for the cream to rise to the top.

Another particular Arnold quote sticks in the memory, though: "The Socceroos are the true reflection of where we are at, because we can't bring in foreigners to strengthen our teams."

Calling up Fornaroli and leaning on Australia's diaspora in the form of Fran Karacic (Croatia), Martin Boyle and Harry Souttar (Scotland) while one of the best young midfielders in the ALM in Rahmat Akbari opts to play for Afghanistan speaks volumes -- not of footballers in Australia, but of Australian football's decision-makers. Conjecture over AS Roma's Cristian Volpato and Parma's Alessandro Circati's potential representation for Italy, while Australia is managing to lose talent still that plays in the ALM, is reflective of the discourse's lack of perspective.

Some, including the Socceroos coach, will try to tell you the cattle isn't there. It is an outright fallacy. There is enough evidence with the Socceroos in this World Cup qualification window alone that shows the problems lay with player selection and utilisation, rather than talent production.

From where to deploy Taggart and Ajdin Hrustic, to the continued inability to maximise Tom Rogic's quality, as well as the failure to give Marco Tilio scope when it mattered against Oman, to the failure to properly integrate Denis Genreau, and even to the incompatibility of players like Jackson Irvine and Awer Mabil to Arnold's preferred system, the problems with Australia's composition on the pitch are clear to see.

Meanwhile, young potential strikers of divergent profiles who are capable of starting in the ALM -- such as Mohamed Toure, Nicolas Milanovic and Cyrus Dehmie -- barely see minutes because their selections incorporate more risk.

And these are just strikers in the ALM we're talking about here, this season alone. Examples of players at different positions with different skillsets that entail different levels of risk, but receive the same lack of scope, are plentiful over the course of the competition's history.

It's just easier to put player development in the too-hard basket, then say they're individually not good enough or didn't want it enough. Despite his call-up for this window, D'Agostino has played just over a season's worth of top-flight minutes over his career, at the age of 24. Then there's the swamp that is these players even working their way to ALM setups.

That is the multi-faceted backdrop that has led Australia to Fornaroli's selection and, particularly in relation to Socceroos coach Arnold, it's not exactly an uncharacteristic low-risk decision taken in a time of duress.

Because, even though the 34-year-old could make a short-term impact for the Socceroos on the pitch, what cost does it have on Australia's future?