Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has named his 27-man squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Japan and Saudi Arabia, with Perth Glory striker Bruno Fornaroli the biggest new inclusion for the green and gold.
Other notable inclusions include Nathaniel Atkinson and Nicholas D’Agostino. Young goalkeeper Joe Gauci will join the squad to gain experience as he is seen as a future national team keeper.
Aaron Mooy has contracted COVID-19 and therefore has been omitted from the squad.
It is unclear exactly what Arnold’s midfield will look like for the upcoming fixtures, but his options for the centre of the park include James Jeggo, Denis Genreau, Jackson Irivine, Tom Rogic, and Ajdin Hrustic.
Jamie Maclaren will play against Japan in Sydney but will then depart the squad for his wedding and will miss the away fixture in Jeddah.
“This window represents a great opportunity for our players and staff to do something truly special for Australian football, and we will be focusing all our energies on producing two great performances against Japan and Saudi Arabia and lifting the Socceroos to the World Cup,” said Arnold.
“But I truly view March 2022 as a win-win window for this group.
“With a play-off spot for June already locked in, if required, the players will be able to come to camp with clear minds as to what’s ahead of them, and enjoy the time that they have working hard together and playing in front of their family, friends and fans.
“I am energised by the messages that I have received from the boys over the past two days after they were notified of their selections.”
With no Maclaren in Jeddah and Adam Taggart injured, Arnold needed to look at other players for the No.9 role.
It might surprise some that Fornaroli was even considered for national team selection. He is still scoring goals in the A-League and playing well, but he’s now 34 years of age. The Glory No.9 was born in Uruguay, and has only recently become an Australian citizen.
He isn’t yet cleared to play for Australia, but Football Australia are in the process of switching his international allegiance with world football governing body FIFA.
“The situation with Bruno is that Adam Taggart is injured at the moment. In the last number of years, Bruno has been a star of the A-League and been a great goal scorer in the A-League,” said the Socceroos boss.
“He’s got a great reputation for having a winning mentality, and a fighting mentality.”
Australia face Japan in one week’s time on Thursday, March 24 at Sydney’s Accor Stadium (formerly known as ANZ Stadium/Stadium Australia), then travel to Jeddah to take on Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, March 30 (AEDT).
The Socceroos sit in third place in Group B on 15 points, three points behind Japan on 18 points, and four points behind Saudi on 19 points. They boast a superior goal difference of +9, compared to Japan’s +6 and Saudi Arabia with +5.
Two wins from two will all but secure direct qualification to Qatar 2022 considering Australia’s advantage in goal difference. However, anything less than that and Arnold’s side will have to rely on other results to go their way.
Should Australia finish third in their group, they will then face the third-placed team from Group A in a sudden death clash. If they progress from there, it will be another one-off game held in Qatar against the fifth-placed side from South America.
It’ll be a big challenge for the green and gold, but should they claim all three points at Accor Stadium, confidence will be high, and we know Arnold will have them as best prepared as possible under the less than ideal circumstances.