The Socceroos will kick off their 3rd round of World Cup qualifying with two must-win fixtures.
This week Graham Arnold is expected to name a 30-man squad for the September fixtures where Australia will play a home match in Doha against China as well as an away fixture against Vietnam.
Kick360’s Thomas Williams and Jack George have come together to prepare a preferred 30-man squad for the important ties that could go a long way to deciding whether Australia play in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Despite rumours that players from the A-League may not be available for selection due to quarantine regulations, this squad will involve the best possible players at Graham Arnold’s disposal whilst offering alternatives for the A-League players who may miss out due to these regulations.
|GK||Danny Vukovic||NEC Nijmegen, Netherlands||36|
|GK||Andrew Redmayne||Sydney FC, Australia||32|
|GK||Lawrence Thomas||SonderjyskE, Denmark||29|
The big talking point amongst the Australian goalkeeping ranks comes in the form of Mat Ryan’s fitness ahead of the qualifying rounds.
Ryan, having transferred from Brighton and Hove Albion to Real Sociedad (via a loan move to Arsenal), has been Australia’s number one for a number of years.
On top of the added quality, he provides a comfort in possession and an ability to read passes in behind, which will be key against China and Vietnam, with Graham Arnold likely wanting to establish a higher line after the Olyroos’ failure against Egypt.
Ryan hasn’t played due to a knee injury he picked up on the 26th of July, and is expected to return late this month.
Danny Vuković is recovering from a long term injury and is struggled for match minutes in Holland’s Eredivisie. Despite his lack of playing time, Vuković appears the most likely to deputise for Ryan as Sydney’s Andrew Redmayne could be left out due to quarantine regulations.
Former Melbourne Victory stopper Lawrence Thomas has performed phenomenally in Denmark and will look to put his hand up to replace Ryan. However, Thomas seems to sit lower on the pecking order than the aforementioned keepers given that he did not start a match during the 2nd round of qualifying but was given his debut as a substitute for Redmayne against Nepal.
All three of Redmayne, Thomas and Vuković possess superb reaction saves and handling, but Ryan’s anticipation and ability in possession may be a big miss for Arnold’s side.
Overseas-based goalkeepers Paul Izzo and Ashley Maynard-Brewer could be handed their maiden Socceroos call-ups should Redmayne and Adam Federici prove unable to feature.
|Attacking left back||Aziz Behich||Istanbul Basaksehir, Turkey||30|
|Attacking Left back||Callum Elder||Hull City, England (2)||26|
|Centre-back||Harry Souttar||Stoke City, England (2)||22|
|Centre-back||Trent Sainsbury||KV Kortrijk, Belgium||29|
|Centre-back||Milos Degenek||Red Star Belgrade, Serbia||27|
|Ball playing Centre-back||Curtis Good||Melbourne City, Australia||28|
|Centre-back||Ryan McGowan||Kuwait SC, Kuwait||32|
|Attacking Right-back||Rhyan Grant||Sydney FC, Australia||30|
|Right-back||Fran Karacic||Brescia, Italy (2)||25|
|Right-back, left-back, right-wing (all attacking)||Nathaniel Atkinson||Melbourne City, Australia||22|
Graham Arnold is well stocked in defence for the upcoming qualifiers. However, along with the forwards, the lack of A-League players perhaps available could hurt the Socceroos in terms of right-backs available for selection.
After some sublime performances in the 2nd round of qualifying as well as Serie B in Italy last season, Fran Karačić is likely to start at right-back for Arnold’s Socceroos.
The Croatian youth-international performed exceptionally in the previous qualifying rounds, after Rhyan Grant seemed to have made the Socceroos place his own. After a superb Olympic tournament, Nathaniel Atkinson could also come in as an option – his versatility can also allow him to play left-back and as a winger if necessary.
The Tasmanian-born youngster appears likely to deputise for Zagreb-born Karačić after winning the Joe Marston Medal in the A-League and being linked with moves to Europe.
The Socceroos have two quality left backs at their disposal with Aziz Behich and Callum Elder possessing the ability to provide overlapping, penetrating runs.
Hull City left-back Elder is in line for a maiden Socceroos call-up after featuring in the Tigers’ opening games of the season in the Championship following a sublime promotion from EFL League One where the uncapped Aussie was named in the league’s Team of the Year.
Former Liverpool full-back Brad Smith can consider himself unlucky to miss out after pulling out of the squad for the 2nd round of qualifying due to an injury
Centre-half is perhaps the department where Arnold possesses the greatest depth with Sunderland’s Bailey Wright and Olyroos captain Thomas Deng unfortunate to miss out. Should A-League talents Atkinson, Rhyan Grant and Curtis Good not be able to feature due to quarantine regulations, then Wright and Deng could both be in line for call-ups.
Harry Souttar will likely join and play a key role in the Socceroos’ bid for the World Cup, while Trent Sainsbury will likely partner him, having found regular game time in Belgium.
Milos Degenek will provide competition along with Curtis Good and Ryan McGowan, with the latter having recently joined Kuwait SC.
|Ball winning midfielder||Kenny Dougall||Blackpool, England (2)||28|
|Deep lying playmaker||James Holland||LASK, Austria||32|
|Deep lying playmaker, box to box midfielder, advanced playmaker||Aaron Mooy||Shanghai Port, China||30|
|Box to box midfielder, advanced playmaker||Jackson Irvine||FC St Pauli, Germany (2)||28|
|Box to box midfielder, advanced midfielder||Connor Metcalfe||Melbourne City, Australia||21|
|Deep lying playmaker, box to box midfielder||Massimo Luongo||Sheffield Wednesday, England (3)||28|
|Advanced playmaker, false nine, second striker||Tom Rogic||Celtic, Scotland||28|
|Advanced playmaker, right-winger (inverted)||Ajdin Hrustic||Eintracht Frankfurt||25|
|Advanced midfielder, second striker||Riley McGree||Birmingham City, England (2)||22|
Arnold will be experiencing the full extent of ‘selection headaches’ when approaching these positions, with midfield being perhaps the Socceroos’ best-stocked department.
In Tom Rogic, Ajdin Hrustic and Riley McGree, the Socceroos find themselves with three left-footed attacking midfielders, all capable of breaking the lines and taking charge of the playmaking responsibilities.
Arnold’s greatest challenge will be finding a system that allows Jackson Irvine, Mooy, Rogić and Hrustić to all play together.
Tom Rogic has been played on the left of a three man midfield in a 4-3-3 under fellow Australian Ange Postecoglou at Celtic, and that could allow Hrustic to play on the right of a front three, meaning they can take up inside right and inside left half spaces respectively.
Rogic, with his superb finishing ability and ability to make split second decisions, can also play as a false nine in a 4-3-3, an increasingly likely tactic should Jamie Maclaren not he available due to quarantine.
This could allow Mooy to sit deeper, and progress the ball alongside a more defensively minded midfielder.
Despite being relegated from the Championship after a lacklustre season, Massimo Luongo will look to bounce back by re-asserting himself in the Socceroos squad ahead of Denis Genreau who recently moved to FC Toulouse following his performances at the Olympics.
|Inverted winger||Martin Boyle||Hibernian, Scotland||28|
|Inverted winger, second striker||Chris Ikonomidis||Melbourne Victory, Australia||26|
|Inverted winger, second striker, advanced midfielder||Bruce Kamau||OFI Crete, Greece||26|
|Striker, winger||Mitch Duke||Fagiano Okayama, Japan (2)||30|
|Wide winger, inverted winger||Matthew Leckie||Melbourne City, Australia||30|
|Wide winger, inverted winger||Awer Mabil||FC Midtjyyland, Denmark||25|
|Striker||Jamie Maclaren||Melbourne City, Australia||28|
|Striker||Adam Taggart||Cerezo Osaka, Japan||28|
Stacked with talent from the A-League, Arnold may have to turn to European-based talent for his attackers should Australian-based players prove unable to feature.
Jamie Maclaren and Mathew Leckie have been prominent in Australia’s best XI of recent times and their composure in front of goal could be difficult to replace.
With Freiburg’s Brandon Borrello likely to miss out on these games due to an injury, versatile attacker Bruce Kamau could be in line for a maiden cap.
Martin Boyle will look to capitalise upon his strong form for Hibernian by continuing to bypass defenders and score goals from the left.
Boyle could form a potent attacking trio with Mitch Duke and Awer Mabil who have both featured prominently in Japan and Denmark respectively.
The aforementioned Kamau can also play on the left of a front three and will provide competition in both wide areas.
Graham Arnold finds himself with depth and competition with the Australia-based players in the squad, but should they not make the plane due to quarantine regulations, Daniel Arzani will be knocking on the door of a call-up after a recent move to Belgium where he will look to profit from increased playing time.
Young centre-forward Deni Jurić could be in line for a premier call-up after being recalled from loan by Croatian powerhouse Dinamo Zagreb.
Brother of well-known Socceroo and Macarthur signing Tomi, Deni Jurić is eligible to play for the Croatian national team which may affect Arnold’s decision-making regarding the need to ensure he is locked-in to play for Australia in the future.
Image Supplied: Socceroos