Aaron Mooy and Tom Rogic headline nine inclusions in Graham Arnold’s 27-man Socceroos squad for their upcoming FIFA World Cup qualifiers against China and Vietnam.
The creative midfield duo are set to provide a major boost to Arnold’s side ahead of the beginning of the crucial phase of World Cup qualifying.
Both Mooy and Rogic missed the Socceroos’ June qualifiers due to quarantine requirements and injury respectively.
Among the other inclusions are exciting attacking midfielder Daniel Arzani who returns to the squad after an impressive showing at the Tokyo Olympics, experienced defender Bailey Wright and fresh faces in full-backs Callum Elder and Ryan Strain along with goalkeeper Paul Izzo.
Midfielder James Jeggo and left-back Brad Smith also return to the squad while defender Fran Karacic sits out with an injury.
Since overcoming his ankle setback, Rogic has flourished under his former Socceroos boss Ange Postecoglou at Celtic and is expected to play a major role when they take the field on Friday morning (AEST).
Mooy, however, has seen little action at club-level for Shanghai SIPG in the Chinese Super League, having not featured since May.
Arnold is confident he will be ready to feature despite his lack of minutes and is equally confident in the quality of the squad he has selected for their opening two qualifiers.
“For me, it’s a good squad, it’s a squad that I am excited about and one that I do believe will bring great energy into the camp,” Arnold said
“Aaron (Mooy), it’s especially great to get him back and see him, it’s been quite a while since we’ve seen Aaron,
“Aaron has gone through some tough times and we’ve been there to support him through those times and he’s looking so forward to catching up with his mates and be back in the Socceroo family,
“Tommy (Rogic) is obviously doing fantastic with Ange at Celtic… it’s a short turnaround with the boys to get here and it’s about them enjoying themselves and making sure that Socceroo family is reconnected and ready to go.”
Arnold’s squad consists of primarily Australian’s playing abroad as several A-League players turned down the opportunity as a result of Australia’s strict border rules and personal reasons – a decision the Socceroos boss said he supported due to the mental and physical toll of a 14-day stay in hotel quarantine.
Socceroos captain, Mat Leckie, is among the players who will sit out this international window along with A-League Golden Boot winner Jamie Maclaren and new Melbourne Victory signing Chris Ikonomidis.
Sydney FC right-back Rhyan Grant is the only A-League based player to head over to Doha and with permission from his club will stay abroad between the September and October windows – ensuring he will be able to fulfil his international ambitions and be ready for the upcoming A-League campaign.
“The Australian boys all have lives,” Arnold said.
“With the loss of Fran Karacic with a calf injury that put him out we are very short in that position and I know Paddy Steinford and the organisation spoke to Sydney FC and I spoke to Rhyan Grant,
“Rhyan Grant’s personal life means he’s able to come over, the plan is for him to stay over after this window and be ready for the October window so we’re grateful for Rhyan enormously that he’s committed to this.”
Having played nine of their ten qualifiers on the road at the conclusion of this window, Arnold is hoping his side can return for their home-leg qualifiers in the near future having not played on home-soil since October 2019.
Arnold called upon the Australian government to ensure the games can go ahead down under as they look to preserve their sensational home record which has not seen them lose since a friendly against Brazil in June 2017.
“I know the organisation is working hard and has been working extremely hard with the government to make that happen,” Arnold said.
“It’s been a long time for myself and the boys to play at home, they obviously miss playing in-front of the Australian fans,
“It would be just a great thing if the Australian government could help with that because I know that every conversation I have with the players it’s always about ‘when are we going to play at home?’
“I know the players are excited for it, I’m excited for it and I do believe that the organisation and the government will be working hard to make that happen.”
As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, Football Australia are proposing a series of strict protocols in order to ensure the games go ahead down under – including wearing tracking devices and installing nets to ensure the ball doesn’t come into contact with spectators.
The Socceroos are scheduled to host Oman and Saudi Arabia in October and November respectively with the venue still to be confirmed.
Socceroos squad for September window:
Goalkeepers: Mat Ryan, Lawrence Thomas, Danny Vukovic, Paul Izzo
Defenders: Aziz Behich, Milos Degenek, Callum Elder, Rhyan Grant, Ryan McGowan, Trent Sainsbury, Brad Smith, Harry Souttar, Ryan Strain, Bailey Wright
Midfielders: Daniel Arzani, Kenneth Dougall, Denis Genreau, Ajdin Hrustic, Jackson Irvine, James Jeggo, Riley McGree, Aaron Mooy, Tom Rogic
Forwards: Martin Boyle, Mitchell Duke, Awer Mabil, Adam Taggart
Australia vs China
Kick-off: Friday September 3, 4 AM (AEST)
Venue: Khalifa International Stadium, Doha,
Vietnam vs Australia
Kick-off: Tuesday September 7, 10 PM (AEST)
Venue: Mỹ Đình National Stadium, Hanoi, Vietnam