The Socceroos face their hour of truth at Hang Jebat Stadium in Malaysia this coming Thursday evening when they meet Syria in the first leg of the Asian play-off for World Cup qualification. Thursday night’s clash in Malaysia will be followed five days later by the home leg in Sydney on Tuesday 10 October.
Socceroos boss Ange Postecoglou has named his final 23-player squad for the two-leg qualification tie to determine which team will go on to meet the fourth-placed CONCACAF team for the final play-off.
Into the squad come five new faces who missed selection for the last two group qualifiers against Japan and Thailand. Four of the five are defenders leading to speculation that Postecoglou may at some stage revert to a back four.
Left backs Aziz Behich and Craig Goodwin come into the squad and will be expected to challenge Brad Smith for that position. Uncapped central defender Matthew Jurman gets his first call-up at the expense of Matthew Spiranovic. Right back Josh Risdon is also recalled ahead of Alex Gersbach and may be utilised if Postecoglou opts to push Matthew Leckie into a more advanced position down the right flank.
The exception to the inclusion of defenders is the call-up of Ukrainian-born striker Nikita Rukavytsya who has been playing in the Israeli premier league with Maccabi Haifa. The 30-year-old, pacey left footer made his senior debut with Perth Glory, then went overseas to play in Europe before returning to Western Sydney Wanderers for the 2014-15 season. He replaces Jamie McLaren in the squad as a speedy attacking option off the bench.
Missing from the squad is skipper Mile Jedinak who is still struggling for game time at his club Aston Villa as he recovers from a groin injury.
“The plan was to qualify directly, but if we get four more pressure games it will do us a world of good,” Postecoglou said.
“Syria are a good side, like most teams in Asia now. They’ll sit back and make it hard for us. Nothing will surprise us.
“Our approach won’t change, we’ll try and take the game to them, that will hopefully put us on the front foot when we come here.
“We’ll go hard at it in that first game and see if they cope with that.
“I am confident that we have a group of players capable of achieving our goal of progressing to the next stage of qualification.”
SOCCEROOS SQUAD V SYRIA
Mat Ryan (Brighton, ENG), Mitch Langerak (Levante, SPA), Danny Vukovic (Genk, BEL)
Aziz Behich (Bursaspor, TUR), Milos Degenek (Yokohama F Marinos, JAP), Mathew Jurman (Suwon Bluewings, KOR), Josh Risdon (Western Sydney), Trent Sainsbury (Jiangsu Suning, CHI), Brad Smith (Bournemouth, ENG), Bailey Wright (Bristol, ENG)
Mark Milligan (Melbourne Victory), Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield, ENG), Massimo Luongo (QPR, ENG), Mustafa Amini (AGF, DEN), Craig Goodwin (Sparta Rotterdam, NET), Jackson Irvine (Hull City, ENG)
Tim Cahill (Melbourne City), Tomi Juric (Luzern, SWI), Nikita Rukavytsya (Maccabi Haifa, ISR), Robbie Kruse (Bochum, GER), Mathew Leckie (Hertha Berlin, GER), Tom Rogic (Celtic, SCO), James Troisi (Melbourne Victory)
Omitted from original 30
Mark Birighitti (NAC Breda, NET) Alex Gersbach (Rosenborg, NOR), Ryan McGowan (Al-Sharjah, SAU), Mile Jedinak (Aston Villa, ENG), James Jeggo (Sturn Graz, AUT), Awer Mabil (Pacos de Ferreira, POR), Jamie Maclaren (Darmstadt, GER).