Playmakers Tom Rogic and Aaron Mooy are back in the Socceroos roster in time for Australia’s do-or-die World Cup play-offs next month, but there have been some surprising omissions.
As they both missed the last two matches of Socceroos’ group campaign against Japan and Saudi Arabia in March, Rogic and Mooy have been included in Australia’s final 29-man squad for the play-offs, which will take place on June 8 (AEST). against the UAE in neutral Qatar.
If the Socceroos win that match, they will advance to an intercontinental play-off against South American nation Peru on June 14 (AEST), also in Qatar. The winner qualifies for the World Cup in November-December.
“Our qualifying journey for this year’s FIFA World Cup has been challenging, but the greater the challenge, the greater the reward,” said Socceroos coach Graham Arnold.
“Just like in 2017 and 2005, I have every confidence that our boys will make it through the play-offs
system and seals Australia a place in the World Cup.
“The players, coaches, staff, their families and our supporters have invested so much time, passion and dedication into this qualifying campaign, so we will be 100 percent committed in the coming weeks to ensure that the effort and sacrifice so many people have earned in the past three years is rewarded in the best possible way.
“We have selected a large roster for this period for a number of reasons, but primarily because so many of our players have been on top form for their clubs over the past few months.
“In addition, as several players with yellow cards go into the UAE match, we had to make sure we have coverage in every area to make sure we don’t come up short at any point.”
Aside from the return of Rogic, who recently parted ways with Scottish giants Celtic and China-based Mooy, the Socceroos also welcome Middlesbrough midfielder Riley McGree, Japan striker Adam Taggart, St Pauli midfielder Jackson Irvine, Sunderland defender Bailey Wright, Adelaide United forward Craig Goodwin and Melbourne Victory left-back Jason Davidson, who last represented Australia in 2015.
Notable absent from the squad is Sydney FC, right-back Rhyan Grant, while others from the March squad who are missing this time around are veteran Perth Glory striker Bruno Fornaroli, Melbourne City midfielder Connor Metcalfe, Melbourne Victory forward Ben Folami and the be Jimmy Jeggo living in Belgium. †
But a number of players who had outstanding seasons in the Men’s A-League have been overlooked. Jason Cummings scored ten goals in his first season with the Central Coast Mariners and led them to an impressive fifth place finish. The forward started against Barcelona for the A-League All-Stars but revealed before the game that Arnold hadn’t even spoken to him about a possible call-up. Central Coast goalkeeper Mark Birighitti was awarded nine clean sheets of the competition but was surprisingly left out in favor of Sydney FC’s Andrew Redmayne.
And Garang Kuol, the livewire 17-year-old who stole the spotlight against Barcelona, was a potential shooter, but also missed. He scored four goals in nine substitute appearances for the Mariners.
Barcelona coach Xavi said: “Dwight Yorke told me he was 16 or 17… it was a big surprise.
“He was very fast and thanks to him we had two or three chances.
“He’s a great player and he has a great future, he’s a talent that’s obvious.”
The Socceroos will warm up on Thursday morning for their clash with the UAE with a friendly against Jordan (AEDT).
“I heard Rale Rasic say recently that the ‘Socceroos’ story is always a great story’, so in the 100th year of our national team there could be no better way for this group of players and staff to remember those who came before them. then by writing another proud chapter in the history books through FIFA World Cup qualification,” said Arnold.
Selection Socceroos: Nathaniel Atkinson, Aziz Behich, Martin Boyle, Nick D’Agostino, Jason Davidson, Milos Degenek, Kenny Dougall, Mitchell Duke, Denis Genreau, Craig Goodwin, Ajdin Hrustic, Jackson Irvine, Fran Karacic, Joel King, Mathew Leckie, Awer Mabil. Jamie Maclaren, Riley McGree, Aaron Mooy, Andrew Redmayne, Tom Rogic, Kye Rowles, Mathew Ryan, Trent Sainsbury, Gianni Stensness, Adam Taggart. Marco Tlio, Danny Vukovic, Bailey Wright.
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