Socceroos head coach Graham Arnold has rewarded the standout performances of several A-League Men players with national team recalls ahead of Australia’s unmissable World Cup play-off match against the UAE on 8 June.
Most important points:
- Eight A-League Men players have been called up to the Socceroos, including Jason Davidson, Craig Goodwin, Jamie Maclaren, Nick D’Agostino and Kye Rowles
- The Socceroos must win their play-off match against the UAE on June 8 to advance to the final qualifier against Peru
- Head coach Graham Arnold’s future is in doubt as Australia fail to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 2002
Melbourne Victory defender Jason Davidson returns to the side for the first time since 2015 after a standout season with the club, helping them finish second after an unbeaten run of 14 games that finished just one point behind Prime Minister Melbourne City.
Davidson is joined by Adelaide United top scorer and club assistant leader Craig Goodwin, who took the Reds lead to fourth place with ten goals in 26 games.
Also remembered is Melbourne City striker and ALM Golden Boot winner Jamie Maclaren, who missed Australia’s game against Saudi Arabia to get married. Maclaren’s 16 goals made him the first male player to win three Gold Boots in ALM history.
Young Victory striker Nick D’Agostino will also join Arnold as he continued to impress throughout the season, although questions remain about D’Agostino’s team-mate’s absence Jake Brimmer, whose seven goals and seven assists for Victory recently earned him the Johnny Warren Medal.
Another notable absentee is Central Coast Mariners striker Jason Cummings, who has scored 10 goals since joining the Gosford club in January and has since become a fan favorite on and off the pitch.
The 26-year-old has represented Scotland at senior level but has expressed an interest in switching allegiances to Australia if given the chance.
The Socceroos won’t be short of standout options though, with Cerezo Osaka striker Adam Taggart returning to the side after injury meaning there’s no room for the former Uruguayan and Perth Glory striker Bruno Fornaroli, who was unexpectedly called up by Arnold in March after the team suffered heavy player losses due to COVID-19.
City winger Mathew Leckie has also been selected after an injury kept him out of action for club and country earlier this year, along with club-mate Marco Tilio, while fellow City youngster Connor Metcalfe misses.
There is also no room for Victory winger Ben Folami, Belgium-based James Jeggo or Sydney FC defender Rhyan Grant. Other notable absentees include ALM goalkeeper of the year Mark Birighitti, Urawa Red Diamonds defender Thomas Deng and in-form Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Massimo Luongo.
The Socceroos midfield will be littered with European experience, though, as Aaron Mooy, Jackson Irvine and Tom Rogic all return alongside creative midfielder Ajdin Hrustic, who recently won the Europa League with Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt, as well as Denis Genreau, who scored the winner earlier this month in the play-off for promotion to Ligue 1 from French club Toulouse.
“Our qualifying journey for this year’s World Cup was challenging, but the greater the challenge, the greater the reward,” Arnold said.
“As in 2017 and 2005, I am fully convinced that our boys will make it through the play-off system and secure a place in the World Cup for Australia.
“We have selected a large roster for this window for a few reasons, but primarily because so many of our players have been in excellent form for their clubs over the past few months. Additionally, with several players on the cusp of to go into the UAE game in yellow, we had to make sure we had coverage in every area.
The 29-man squad gathers over the weekend in Doha for a warm-up game against Jordan on Thursday, six days before taking on the UAE in a must-see match in the early hours of June 8.
If they beat the UAE, they will advance to the final play-off stage against Peru on Tuesday, June 14.
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