New-look Socceroos to tackle World Cup qualifier
SOCCEROOS boss Graham Arnold has put his World Cup faith in a new-look strike force, in a bid to cure Australia's goalscoring woes.
Unveiling a 23-man squad to set out on the road to Qatar 2022, Arnold's choices include just one player - Mathew Leckie - with more than six international goals, and seven other forwards with just 10 goals for Australia between them.
Questions over form and fitness have ruled out more established figures such as Robbie Kruse, Andrew Nabbout and Tomi Juric from the squad to face Kuwait on September 10, while only three players from the A-League make the cut in Andrew Redmayne and Rhyan Grant of Sydney FC, and Melbourne City striker Jamie Maclaren.
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A fresh-faced forward line is likely to be led by Korean-based striker Adam Taggart, who has scored 16 goals in 24 games for Suwon Bluewings to earn just a second call up since the World Cup in 2014.
Brandon Borrello's excellent form for SC Freiburg in Germany could earn him a No 10 playmaking role, with Tom Rogic left out due a lack of game time at Celtic.
Borrello is one of 12 players with 10 caps or fewer, emphasising the overhaul of the national squad ahead of a new World Cup qualifying cycle.
"Our June camp and friendly in Busan (against South Korea) was a really important time for us," said Arnold.
"While many of the senior players that had participated in three major tournaments since 2017 were left out to give them a chance to refresh mentally and physically, many young and emerging players were given the chance to enter or re-enter the set-up, which has helped us to develop our depth.
"I find it exciting for the Socceroos and the nation that there were so many more players in contention for this squad, and am expecting healthy competition for places in the starting side for Kuwait and our upcoming qualification matches as we target a winning start on our journey to Qatar."
The experienced spine remains in the selection of Mat Ryan, Mark Milligan, Trent Sainsbury, Aaron Mooy and Leckie, and Arnold has spent the past few weeks crisscrossing Europe to check on their form and others.
"I have spent the past month in Europe with one of my assistants, Rene Meulensteen, watching and speaking with our players and their coaches and we have been delighted with what we have seen and heard," Arnold said.
"The players that have been selected in this squad are fit and ready to go, while many, such as Brandon Borrello at Freiburg, Ajdin Hrustic at Groningen, Milos Degenek at Red Star Belgrade, Adam Taggart at Suwon Bluewings, Jackson Irvine at Hull City, and Harry Souttar at Fleetwood Town, have made very positive contributions with their clubs."
THE SOCCEROOS SQUAD TO PLAY KUWAIT:
Mustafa Amini (AGF Aarhus, Denmark), Aziz Behich (Istanbul Başakşehir, Turkey), Brandon Borrello (SC Freiburg, Germany), Milos Degenek (Red Star Belgrade, Serbia), Apostolos Giannou (AEK Larnaca, Cyprus), Craig Goodwin (Al-Wehda, Saudi Arabia), Rhyan Grant (Sydney FC, Australia), Ajdin Hrustic (FC Groningen, Netherlands), Jackson Irvine (Hull City, England), James Jeggo (Austria Wien, Austria), Mitchell Langerak (Gk) (Nagoya Grampus, Japan), Mathew Leckie (Hertha BSC, Germany), Massimo Luongo (Sheffield Wednesday, England), Awer Mabil (FC Midtylland, Denmark), Jamie Maclaren (Melbourne City FC, Australia), Mark Milligan (Southend United, England), Aaron Mooy (Brighton & Hove Albion, England), Andrew Redmayne (Gk) (Sydney FC, Australia), Mathew Ryan (Gk) (Brighton & Hove Albion, England), Trent Sainsbury (Maccabi Haifa, Israel), Brad Smith (Seattle Sounders FC, United States of America), Harry Souttar (Fleetwood Town, England), Adam Taggart (Suwon Bluewings, Korea Republic)