Ange Postecoglou ready to unleash Tom Rogic on tired Syria defence
From an outsider's perspective, the sight of Tom Rogic on the Socceroos bench at Malaysia's Hang Jebat Stadium was an unusual one.
Some fans wondered how one of Australia's most exciting players could possibly be overlooked for the country's biggest World Cup qualifying match in 12 years.
Others suggested coach Ange Postecoglou was chucking a Guus Hiddink, a la Uruguay 2005 and the Harry Kewell effect.
But for those thinking ahead to Tuesday's playoff decider against Syria at ANZ Stadium, Rogic's absence from the starting XI five days earlier has less to do with that first leg and more about what he can bring to the second.
The 24-year-old is fresh, back in familiar conditions, and ready to run at the Syrians with all the languid flair that's made him a Celtic hero and attracted several other European suitors.
In Postecoglou's eyes, he's the kind of match winner most managers would kill to have in their arsenal.
"International football is tricky sometimes," Postecoglou said. "It does come down to moments, and he's certainly the kind of player who, in a key moment, can produce something special.
"From our perspective that's a good weapon to have."
If there's any criticism directed at the former Central Coast Mariner, it's surrounded his lack of engine to last the distance and occasional tendency to drift in and out of play.
On that front, Rogic enjoyed the perfect preparation for this international window, running out two impressive 90-minute Scottish Premier League games, in a build-up also featuring an hour-long stint against Rangers and a further 60 minutes in the Champions League against Anderlecht.
His thumping strike against Ross County last month, which he added to in the Old Firm derby, is an encouraging indication the Canberra native could be one for the X-factors that helps salvage Australia's World Cup dreams.
"Tom has been pretty significant for us in recent times," Postecoglou said. "He's contributed with goals or assists and he's maturing in the right way.
"From an international standpoint, it's only really been in the last sort of 12 months that he's come into more prominence.
"I expect him to become a more and more important player."
The other potential X-factor is 13 years Rogic's senior, but no less clinical in match-defining moments.
Tim Cahill, 37, could lead Australia's line in the hunt for the win or goalless draw required to make a final playoff for Russia 2018, likely to be against Panama or Honduras.
The all-time record goalscorer for the Socceroos is seen as the ideal man to unnerve Syria and put the game to bed early.
"Everybody sees Tim's passion for the national team," said stalwart Mark Milligan. "It's nothing new, he's been doing it for a long time now.
"Apart from his incredible ability on the pitch, that ability to drive others has always been there as well.
"The fact that he hasn't lost that is a tribute to him, and we see it day to day."