With less than two months until the start of the AFC Asian Cup, Caltex Socceroos Head Coach, Graham Arnold, is handing a wide range of players the chance to put their case forward.
Arnold announced his 23-man squad to play Korea Republic on Saturday, November 17, welcoming back familiar faces and young blood.
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Interestingly, this group is Arnold's confirmed squad to for the first match in Brisbane, before he announces a second squad to play Lebanon on Tuesday, November 20 in Sydney.
Arnold has included four Hyundai A-League players as train-on members, giving Thomas Deng, Craig Goodwin, Rhyan Grant and Dimitri Petratos valuable exposure to his game preparation procedure.
Under the Arnold era, the Caltex Socceroos have only had 15 days together in the past two months. Arnold will be keen to work closely with the named players during this international break to refine his options before embarking on Australia’s AFC Asian Cup title defence.
In-form forwards to provide spark
Robbie Kruse, Mathew Leckie and Tom Rogic form the nucleus of familiar faces up front, as all three players continue to mature into club and international regulars. Rogic, in particular, has lit up the Scottish Professional Football League, recently scoring a cracker in his 150th game for Celtic.
In addition to the more experienced heads, Awer Mabil, Andrew Nabbout and Martin Boyle all have an opportunity to seal their spot on the plane to the UAE. Mabil is in hot form for club and country, having registered his maiden Caltex Socceroos goal in their 4-0 away win to Kuwait. The 23-year-old has cemented his position in FC Midtjylland’s squad, and has the pace and guile to dominate any defender.
Boyle, meanwhile, is an interesting prospect. At 25-years-old, the right-winger is hitting the peak in his career which has seen him play all his club football in Scotland. Boyle represented Scotland twice at youth level, and is now eligible to play for the Caltex Socceroos after receiving international clearance. His father was born in Australia.
Nabbout has made four club appearances this season for Urawa Red Diamonds. It’s great to see the forward return from his shoulder injury sustained in Russia, and he will hopefully clock some vital training and playing minutes.
England-based midfield meets youthful exuberance
Fans will recognise most of the midfield as Aaron Mooy, Jackson Irvine and Massimo Luongo all get their chance to show Arnold what they’ve got.
Mooy anchors Huddersfield’s midfield in the English Premier League, and has shown his quality time and time again for the Green and Gold.
Irvine and Luongo, meanwhile, are no slouches themselves. The pair, playing for Hull City and Queens Park Rangers in England’s Championship, are physically mobile and defensively astute enough to make their own case.
Keep an eye on Mustafa Amini and James Jeggo, though. The pair have been in and around the Caltex Socceroos for a few years now, rewarded for their budding club form.
Solid foundations at the back
Arnold is presented with a selection headache to assemble Australia’s back line. Milos Degenek, Matt Jurman, Mark Milligan and Trent Sainsbury are all world-class defenders, each bringing their own unique skill set to the team.
Out wide, Josh Risdon and Aziz Behich are the incumbents from Bert van Marwijk’s tenure, but that doesn’t grant them a monopoly on their positions. Alex Gersbach has made six appearances for Rosenborg this season, and at 21-years-old, still has his best years ahead of him.
Further back, Mat Ryan, Danny Vukovic and Mitch Langerak will do battle to guard Australia’s goal. Ryan has displayed some impressive form for Brighton Hove and Albion, but don’t discount Vukovic and Langerak who are performing astutely in Belgium and Japan.