SYDNEY — Bert van Marwijk cut six players from his extended World Cup squad in a contentious call on the same day as Football Federation Australia and a major sponsor unveiled a marketing campaign with veteran Tim Cahill as the main feature.
Cahill has scored goals in all three of his previous trips to the World Cup and remains a leading contender for a spot in Australia's final 23-man squad for Russia, but the timing of the announcement Tuesday sparked some criticism.
Among the players cut by Van Marwijk, who took on the Socceroos coaching job for the World Cup after Ange Postecoglou quit following the qualifying campaign, were 24-year-old striker Jamie Maclaren and defender Bailey Wright, who played in 12 of the 22 qualifying games.
"It is always a challenging task to reduce a squad," van Marwijk, who had unveiled a 32-player squad last week, said in a statement. "Overall, I believe we have named a strong and ambitious squad for our training camp."
The squad will go into camp in Turkey and play a friendly against Czech Republic on June 1 before being trimmed again to 23.
The FFA and Caltex, the naming-rights sponsor for the Australian men's national team, launched the Cahilltex promotion later Tuesday. In it, five gas stations will be rebranded as Cahilltex during May and June.
The inclusion of the 38-year-old Cahill in the squad combined with the absence of Maclaren had some critics on social media implying that marketing opportunities could be influencing selections.
But FFA chief executive David Gallop rejected the assertion, telling broadcaster SBS: "Absolutely not. Look at Timmy's record."
Cahill, who scored important goals in Australia's World Cup playoff games late last year, is focusing only on Russia.
"I am lucky to have had several defining moments across previous FIFA World Cup campaigns, and I'm looking forward to giving it another crack in Russia this year," he said in a statement.
Goalkeepers: Mat Ryan, Danny Vukovic, Brad Jones
Defenders: Aziz Behich, Josh Brillante, Milos Degenek, Fran Karacic, Matt Jurman, James Meredith, Mark Milligan, Josh Risdon, Trent Sainsbury.
Midfielders: Jackson Irvine, Mile Jedinak, Massimo Luongo, Aaron Mooy, Dimitri Petratos, Tom Rogic, James Troisi.
Forwards: Daniel Arzani, Tim Cahill, Tomi Juric, Robbie Kruse, Mat Leckie, Andrew Nabbout, Nikita Rukavytsya.