Socceroos boss Graham Arnold has welcomed back Melbourne City attacking trio Matthew Leckie, Jamie Maclaren and Andrew Nabbout for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Saudi Arabia and China.
Strict international border restrictions and quarantine requirements had initially made it difficult for A-League Men’s representatives to take part in Australia’s qualifying campaign with both Leckie and Maclaren opting out of recent camps due to the aforementioned.
However, with those restrictions easing in recent weeks in both New South Wales and Victoria it has opened the door for the trio to return to the fold – along with the entire Socceroos team to play on home soil for the first time since October 2019 when they take on The Green Falcons next Thursday in Sydney.
“The players selected for our upcoming FIFA window are brimming with excitement to return home and to play in front of Australian supporters, as well as their family and friends,” Arnold said.
“The players will get so much energy from playing in front of a strong home crowd at a first-class Stadium,
“Mathew (Leckie), Jamie (Maclaren), and Andrew (Nabbout) have all been watching our campaign from afar over the past two months, and they are thrilled with the opportunity to re-join the squad and make an impact on our qualification campaign.”
Rhyan Grant, who has spent time in Europe in between international windows to avoid hotel quarantine, is the fourth and only other A-League Men’s representative.
Milos Degenek returns to the squad after testing positive to COVID-19 in the lead-up to their last qualifiers along with attacker Nikita Rukavytsya who is back in the squad for the first-time since June.
Gianni Stensness has also been rewarded for his solid form at Norwegian club Viking FK with his first-ever call-up after opting to play for the Socceroos over New Zealand.
However, in a blow to both Arnold’s midfield and attacking stocks, Tom Rogic, Aaron Mooy and Adam Taggart are unavailable for selection due to injury and quarantine requirements respectively.
Ryan McGowan, Chris Ikonomidis and Daniel Arzani have all been omitted while Cameron Devlin’s solid form at Scottish Premiership outfit Hearts has gone unrewarded.
Not only is Thursday’s clash with Saudi Arabia a homecoming of sorts for Arnold’s side, but is also a crunch qualifier in their hopes for a place inside the top two which will ensure their passage to Qatar next year.
Currently, the Socceroos sit in second, three points behind Hervé Renard’s side who are currently on top the group after a perfect start to the third round of AFC qualifying.
Australia’s loss to Japan in October has also opened the door for both Oman and the Samurai Blue to get within touching distance of leapfrogging the Green and Gold.
Socceroos squad for World Cup qualifiers:
Goalkeepers: Mathew Ryan, Danny Vukovic, Lawrence Thomas
Defenders: Aziz Behich, Milos Degenek, Callum Elder, Rhyan Grant, Fran Karacic, Trent Sainsbury, Harry Souttar
Midfielders: Kenneth Dougall, Denis Genreau, Ajdin Hrustic, Jackson Irvine, James Jeggo, Riley McGree, Gianni Stensness
Attackers: Martin Boyle, Mitchell Duke, Matthew Leckie, Awer Mabil, Jamie Maclaren, Andrew Nabbout, Nikita Rukavytsya
Australia vs Saudi Arabia
Date: Thursday November 11, 8:10 PM (AEDT)
Venue: Western Sydney Stadium, Sydney
China vs Australia
Date: Tuesday November 16, TBC
Venue: Sharjah Stadium, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates