SYDNEY - Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou has begun pruning his shortlist for this year's World Cup, saying he's monitoring between 40 and 45 players on a daily basis.
Postecogolou has until May 15 to cut that list to 30, and with the Socceroos having played their last friendly match before selection, the coach is busy putting red lines through fringe candidates.
The final selection must be reduced to 23 players by June 6 and while Postecoglou has cast his net wide during his four months in charge, he acknowledges the race for selection has reached its final stages.
"We've set up some processes since that Ecuador game where we've set up a list of about 40-45 players who we're pretty much keeping tabs on," he said. "We're monitoring their training and everything they do on a daily basis we've pretty much got a handle on.
We're getting to the time now where I've got to make some decisions. I need to know how they're all going. Obviously playing is one part of it, and there's a few who are coming back from injury, but my main focus from now is getting the squad right and while that's happening, still doing all our reconnaissance and analysis work on the opposition on how they play as well."
Having spent most of the past two months trawling Europe to check on Australia's players there, he's about to scout the many potential squad members playing in Asia but hasn't decided if he'll visit those in the Middle East.
"Potentially, with "Bresh" , Brett Holman and Alex Brosque there, there's interest," he said. "But I know them pretty well. I don't think I'll find out anything new."
While Postecoglou acknowledges the pressing priority of the World Cup, speaking at Tuesday's Sydney FC in Business luncheon, both the coach and chairman Frank Lowy stressed that the Socceroos' realistic focus over the next year was about Asian Cup success on home soil next January.
Monday's seedings announcement placed Australia in the first draw pot alongside Iran, Japan and Uzbekistan, leaving some powerful nations in the remaining pots, like South Korea and Saudi Arabia in pot two and Iraq in pot three.
The final draw will take place at the Sydney Opera House next Wednesday.
"Obviously you look at the permutations and it makes it quite exciting - we're going to have a tough one, which is not necessarily a bad thing. We're looking forward to next week," Postecoglou said. "Obviously the World Cup is in the forefront of our thought process but when the draw comes out, we'll have an idea of who we're going to be playing, the likely outcomes and we can do some planning for it."
While Postecoglou admits the lack of friendlies has been a problem going into the World Cup - he's only been permitted two matches before naming his final squad - he's aiming to get "up to six" matches before Asia's showpiece event.
"There's a pretty important time post-World Cup period where there's a few windows for us to play some games," he said. "Probably the one thing I've been lacking in this build-up is games for the players, so I want to make sure the players are well-prepared.
"We don't want to be playing friendly games against teams in our group, so once the draw is done, we'll try to put our program together pretty quickly."
Meanwhile, Football Federation Australia chairman Frank Lowy has promised to stay true to his word and demand Australia's World Cup bid spending be repaid by FIFA if they decide to move the 2022 World Cup to a January date.