Socceroos head coach Graham Arnold has confirmed his 29-man squad for the crucial play-off campaign in Doha, with striker Adam Taggart returning from injury on a mission to send Australia to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar This year.
Taggart has been named for next month’s crucial Asian play-off against the United Arab Emirates in Qatar, alongside returning stars Aaron Mooy, Tom Rogic and Jackson Irvine. This is Taggart’s first call-up for the national team since October, when a knee injury ruled the 28-year-old out of the back half of Australia’s group stage matches.
In his absence, the Socceroos slipped from top of the group to third behind Saudi Arabia and Japan, forcing them into the June 7 play-off against the United Arab Emirates. The winner of that game will face South American nation Peru on June 13 to secure a place in Group D with France, Denmark and Tunisia at this year’s World Cup, which takes place from June 21. November to December 18.
“It’s been obviously frustrating, having had such a positive and strong campaign until the last kind of camp, but those things happen. That’s football,” Taggart told AAP. “That’s the challenge that we have in front of us now. As frustrating as these camps and the results may have been, we just have to look at this as a huge opportunity, an exciting opportunity.
“It’s kind of an all-or-nothing scenario that we got ourselves into,” Taggart said. “It’s just important to go out there, make the most of it and make sure we get to the World Cup. You can’t dwell on what’s happened in the last few games, there is still a lot to play for…we just have to make sure that our outlook is positive.
Arnold named nine players who were not involved in the last qualifiers against Japan and Saudi Arabia, when a team hit hard by COVID-19 withdrawals and injuries lost back-to-back games.
There are returns for Adelaide winger Craig Goodwin, Melbourne City striker Mathew Leckie and Central Coast defender Kye Rowles as well as Taggart, Mooy, Rogic and Irvine. Melbourne Victory full-back Jason Davidson has also been selected and could make his first Socceroos appearance since 2015.
In addition to Taggart, Arnold’s strike force is bolstered by the return of Men’s A-League Golden Boot winner Jamie Maclaren after missing the game against Saudi Arabia in March to get married. Ajdin Hrustic also enters the camp following his recent Europa League triumph with Eintracht Frankfurt.
These call-ups, however, mean there is no room for Uruguay-born striker Bruno Fornaroli after his high-profile debut in March. Connor Metcalfe, Ben Folami, James Jeggo and Rhyan Grant are others to miss. Arnold also overlooked Johnny Warren medalist Jake Brimmer and Scottish-born Central Coast striker Jason Cummings.
Australia are gearing up for their must-see game against the United Arab Emirates with a friendly in Doha against Jordan on Wednesday (Thursday, 4am AEST), with players expected to arrive in the Qatari capital within the next three days .
The Socceroos’ qualifying journey to this World Cup began in September 2019 with a 3-0 victory against Kuwait in Kuwait City. Now, after 18 games, 12 wins and 43 goals, Australia’s journey to qualifying for a fifth consecutive World Cup final reaches its crescendo with these play-offs against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Peru in the next fifteen days.
“Our journey to qualifying for this year’s World Cup has been difficult, but the greater the challenge, the greater the reward,” Arnold said. “Just like in 2017 and 2005, I’m confident our boys will come out of the play-off system and secure Australia a place at the World Cup.”
“We have selected a great squad for this window for a number of reasons, but first and foremost because many of our players have been in great form for their clubs in recent months. Additionally, with several players set to enter the UAE game united with yellow cards, we had to make sure we had cover in all areas to make sure we weren’t caught short at any time.
“I heard Rale Rasic recently comment that the story of ‘Socceroos’ is always a great story’, so in the 100e year of our national team, there would be no better way for this group of players and staff to honor those who came before them than by writing another proud chapter in the history books through qualification for the FIFA World Cup™,” he concluded.
The Socceroos squad for June 2022 includes a range of players who will enter camp having recently achieved individual and/or club honours. Ajdin Hrustic became Europa League champions with Eintracht Frankfurt in Sevilla this month, while Tom Rogic won the Scottish Premier League with Celtic FC as well as the Australian Professional Footballer’s Men’s Football of the Year award .
Denis Genreau helped his club FC Toulouse win the Ligue 2 title in France and was also named PFA Young Player of the Year this week. Meanwhile, Nathaniel Atkinson featured in the Scottish Cup final, Joel King was an unused substitute in the Danish Cup final and Bailey Wright played a starring role in helping his side Sunderland AFC, to gain promotion to the Premier League at Wembley.
And three players from the squad will take part in the men’s A-League grand final tonight, with Mathew Leckie, Jamie Maclaren and Marco Tilio having the potential to enter the Socceroos camp on cloud nine if they beat Western United CF at AAMI Park.
Nathaniel Atkinson, Aziz Behich, Martin Boyle, Nicholas D’Agostino, Jason Davidson, Milos Degenek, Kenny Dougall, Mitch 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, Maty Ryan, Trent Sainsbury, Gianni Stensness, Adam Taggart, Marco Tilio, Danny Vukovic, Bailey Wright.