20/05/2024

Graham Arnold has made several key changes to his squad as World Cup qualifiers resume. (Picture: MyFootball)

Set to play their first competitive home game since October 2019, Arnold says his side are looking forward to play back on home soil.

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has made several changes to his 23-man squad, which will play its first game back in Australia since October 2019.

With the clash against Saudi Arabia next Thursday at Western Sydney Stadium the side’s first home fixture in 763 days, Arnold says the group are eager to be back playing on home soil in front of Aussie fans and family.

“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.”

Despite their unbeaten run coming to an end in the most recent World Cup qualifier against Japan last month, Arnold remains optimistic with his side. He was happy with the showing the players put on despite being on the receiving end the 2-1 loss.

Arnold also says the crowd played a major factor in their last outing, and hopes the Australian fans can act as a 12th man next Thursday.

“Overall, away from home I’ll still say it, it was probably the best Socceroo performance ever seen in Japan and [it was] only the second ever goal the Socceroos have scored in Japan,” he said.

“You’ve got to look at those circumstances and look at the conditions, but the one thing I did learn from Japan is the effect the crowd has and the energy the crowd brings to the game.

“When they [Japan] walked out on the pitch before the game and they hadn’t walked out in front of a crowd for a long time like our boys have experienced, the energy that the Japanese fans brought to the game helped with them with the great start that they had.

“By the time we got back in the game the crowd again got in behind the Japanese players and they came home strong, and I expect the same thing on Thursday night against Saudi Arabia in Sydney.

“These boys, the Socceroos have not played for a couple years [in Australia], we’ve played 11 out of 12 World Cup qualifiers away, we need our 12th man.

“Our 12th man is the fans, we need a full stadium, we get behind these boys who’ve committed a lot to Australian football. Our 12th man will get us across the line and I’m appealing to all the fans in Australia to get to the stadium, it’s going to be a fantastic night, the Socceroos are back in town and we can’t wait.”

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Though there is a lot of optimism heading into the clash with fans allowed back in attendance, the Socceroos will be without key players Aaron Mooy, Adam Taggart and Tom Rogic, all of whom were part of the Socceroos last camp in Japan.

With a mixture of quarantine issues and injuries resulting in the players missing out on selection, Melbourne City’s Andrew Nabbout, Jamie Maclaren and Matthew Leckie have all been re-called into the squad.

Arnold says that with border restrictions easing, it has allowed him to bring more A-League based players into the squad.

“With border restrictions in some locations across the nation easing, we’ve been able to welcome some Australian-based players back into the Socceroos’ family this window,” he said.

“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.

“Tom Rogic, Aaron Mooy and Adam Taggart were unavailable for selection this window due to injury or quarantine, however we have developed good depth in the Socceroos over the past few years and the squad that has been selected is one that we have full belief in to perform strongly for the Australian public.”

22-year-old defensive midfielder Gianni Stensness has also received his first Socceroos call-up, having impressed overseas for Norwegian outfit Viking.

Having grown up in New South Wales and previously playing for the Central Coast mariners before his move overseas, Stensness will be relishing the chance to play in his home state.

NameClub, Country‘A’ Caps (Goals)
Aziz BEHICHGiresunspor, Turkey45 (2)
Martin BOYLEHibernian FC, Scotland10 (5)
Milos DEGENEKRed Star Belgrade, Serbia31 (1)
Kenneth DOUGALLBlackpool FC, England3 (0)
Mitchell DUKEFagiano Okayama, Japan13 (6)
Callum ELDERHull City AFC, England1 (0)
Denis GENREAUToulouse FC, France1 (0)
Rhyan GRANTSydney FC, Australia18 (1)
Ajdin HRUSTICEintracht Frankfurt, Germany11 (2)
Jackson IRVINEFC St. Pauli, Germany41 (6)
James JEGGOAris Thessaloniki, Greece9 (0)
Fran KARACICBrescia Calcio, Italy5 (1)
Mathew LECKIEMelbourne City FC, Australia65 (13)
Awer MABILFC Midtjylland, Denmark21 (6)
Jamie MACLARENMelbourne City FC, Australia18 (6)
Riley MCGREEBirmingham City FC, England5 (0)
Andrew NABBOUTMelbourne City FC, Australia9 (2)
Nikita RUKAVYTSYAHapoel Be’er Sheva FC, Israel20 (1)
Mathew RYAN (Gk)Real Sociedad, Spain65 (0)
Trent SAINSBURYKV Kortrijk, Belgium54 (3)
Harry SOUTTARStoke City FC, England9 (6)
Gianni STENSNESSViking FK, Norway0 (0)
Lawrence THOMAS (Gk)SønderjyskE Fodbold, Denmark1 (0)
Danny VUKOVIC (Gk)NEC Nijmegen, Netherlands4 (0)

Qualifying rounds resume in Western Sydney on November 11 against Saudi Arabia before the Socceroos face China on November 16 back overseas in the United Arab Emirates.

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