PNE defender’s Rio D-day

Bailey Wright is hoping to be on his way to Rio
Bailey Wright is hoping to be on his way to Rio
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Preston North End defender Bailey Wright is close to discovering his World Cup fate.

The Preston centre-half was hoping to make the final cut for Australia’s 23-man squad, which was due to be announced shortly after the Evening Post went to press.

Wright is currently part of the Socceroos’ provisional 27-man squad which flew to Brazil last week.

He made his first appearance for the green and golds in yesterday’s World Cup warm-up match against Brazilian club side Parana Clube.

He partnered Ryan McGowan, who plays his football for Chinese Super League club Shandong Luneng Taishan, in the centre of defence at the Arena Unimed Sicoo, in Vitora.

The match does not count as his debut for the Socceroos as it is classed as a B international.

Nevetheless, Wright will have been pleased to have kept a clean sheet as Australia emerged victorious from the workout against the Second Division outfit 2-0.

Striker Oliver Bozanic opened the scoring early on and Adam Taggert added a second goal shortly before half-time.

Assistant coach Aurelio Vidmar was pleased with the way Wright acquitted himself as he played the full 90 minutes.

However, the North End star still faced an anxious wait to find out whether he is not one of four players to be cut from the squad by head coach Ange Postecoglou.

Media sources Down Under were speculating that Wright would remain in the final 23 as one of seven defenders, with Postecoglou expected to shave his squad in other areas.

Indeed Wright’s versatility – he can play anywhere across the backline – could be to his advantage, with Vidmar hinting adaptability would be a key criteria.

He said: “It’s going to be what the best balance is going forward and if we’re really stuck in any spots whether we’ve got players who are flexible enough to play one or two positions.”

Should Wright be named in the squad, he could be in line for his full debut in Australia’s final warm-up game against Croatia on Friday.

The Socceroos begin their World Cup campaign against Chile, in Cuiaba, a week later.

North End team-mate Josh Brownhill was keeping his fingers crossed for Wright.

“To be picked for the World Cup would be fantastic and he deserves it,” Brownhill said.

“He’s had a such fantastic season.

“It was a shame we couldn’t win promotion but it will be great for Bailey to go to the World Cup.

“Bailey’s been through what I’m going through now.

“He’s come up through the youth ranks like I have and got a place in the first team. He’s stayed in the same digs like I have.

“It’s great for someone like me to see what he’s doing and it makes me realise if I work hard then maybe there’s a chance I could be doing what he’s doing in a few years.

“I’ll be watching the World Cup anyway, but especially if Bailey is there.

“I will become an Australia fan for a few weeks.”