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 to propel Australia into this year’s 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Taggart has been called up alongside returnees Aaron Mooy, Tom Rogic and Jackson Irvine for next month’s crucial Asia play-off against the United Arab Emirates in Qatar. It is Taggart’s first international appearance since October, when the 28-year-old retired with a knee injury in the second half of Australia’s group stage.
In his absence, the Socceroos rose from the top of their group to third behind Saudi Arabia and Japan, forcing them into the play-offs against UAE on 7 June. The winner of that match meets the South American nation of Peru on June 13 to secure a place in Group D with France, Denmark and Tunisia at this year’s World Cup, which runs from November 21 to December 18.
“It’s obviously been frustrating up until the last few camps after such a positive and strong campaign, but these things happen. It’s football,” Taggart told AAP. “That’s the challenge we’re facing now. As frustrating as these camps and the results 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’re running into,” Taggart said. “It’s just important to go in there, make the most of it and enjoy it and make sure we get to the World Cup. You can’t go into what’s happened in the last couple of games, there’s still work to be done… we just have to make sure we’re looking at it positively.”
Arnold has named nine players who were not involved in recent qualifiers against Japan and Saudi Arabia as a side hit hard by COVID-19 absentees and injuries lost back-to-back games.
There are returns for Adelaide winger Craig Goodwin, Melbourne City forward 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.
Alongside Taggart, Arnold’s strike force is bolstered by the return of A-League men’s golden boot winner Jamie Maclaren after missing the game against Saudi Arabia in March to get married. Ajdin Hrustic also comes into the camp after his recent Europa League triumph with Eintracht Frankfurt.
However, those call-ups mean Uruguay-born striker Bruno Fornaroli is unavailable after making his highly acclaimed 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 forward Jason Cummings.
Australia warm up for their competitive game against UAE with a friendly in Doha against Jordan on Wednesday (Thursday, 4:00am AEST), with the players set to arrive in the Qatari capital over the next three days.
The Socceroos’ qualifying journey for this World Cup began in September 2019 with a 3-0 win over Kuwait in Kuwait City. Now, after 18 games, 12 wins and 43 goals, Australia’s road to qualifying for a fifth consecutive World Cup is reaching its crescendo with these play-offs against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Peru in the next two weeks .
“Our journey to qualifying for this year’s World Championships has been a challenge, but the greater the challenge, the greater the reward,” Arnold said. “Just like in 2017 and 2005, I have no doubts that our boys will get through the playoff system and give Australia a place at the World Cup.”
“We have chosen a great squad for this window for a number of reasons but primarily because so many of our players have been in great form for their clubs over the past few months. Additionally, with several players going into the UAE game with yellow cards, we had to make sure we had cover in every area to ensure we didn’t fall short at any point.
“I heard Rale Rasic say recently that the ‘Socceroos’ story is always a super story’, so in the 100th On our national team year, what 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 by qualifying for the FIFA World Cup™,” concluded he.
The Socceroos June 2022 squad is made up of a number of players who will enter camp having recently secured individual and/or club honours. Ajdin Hrustic was Europa League champion with Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville this month, while Tom Rogic won the Scottish Premiership with Celtic FC and was named Men’s Football of the Year by Australian professional footballers.
Denis Genreau helped his club, Toulouse FC, 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 not a substitute in the Danish Cup final and Bailey Wright played a leading role in helping his side Sunderland AFC secure promotion to the English championship at Wembley.
And three players from the squad will feature in tonight’s A-League men’s grand final, with Mathew Leckie, Jamie Maclaren and Marco Tilio all having the potential to enter Socceroos camp on cloud nine should they see Western United FC in the AAMI defeat 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.