Four changes have been made to the Socceroos squad that toured England in October for the 2026 FIFA World Cup Asian Qualification second round next week.
Australia will take on Bangladesh at AAMI Park next Thursday, before travelling to Kuwait to face Palestine on 21 November.
Socceroos coach, Graham Arnold, believes strong performances in their previous international window have geared them up for the upcoming qualifiers.
“We’ve had the opportunity to test ourselves against some of world football’s best in the last six months, and our performances have shown just how effective we can be, learning a lot along the way,” Arnold said.
“Those performances have not only shown what we’re capable of, but reinforced a strong belief within this group as we begin an extremely important period.”
On the back of strong starts to the A-League Men’s competition, Adelaide United goalkeeper Joe Gauci and Melbourne City striker Jamie Maclaren have been included in the squad.
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Uncapped duo Kusini Yengi and Ashley Maynard-Brewer round out the inclusions, with this marking the first time Yengi has been included in the Socceroos squad. Arnold said the Portsmouth striker’s inclusion gives them more variety at number nine.
“Yengi’s doing exceptionally well at Portsmouth,” he said.
“He moved over in the offseason, but he gives us something completely different in size and speed.”
Milos Degenek headlined the omissions from the squad that played against England and New Zealand alongside other experienced Socceroos in Thomas Glover, Awer Mabil and Andrew Redmayne.
Arnold had a simple reason for omitting some of those players – they weren’t match fit.
“I’ve been saying it for four or five years – match minutes is the most important thing. Milos Degenek is not in the squad this time because he hasn’t played for quite a while,” he said.
“I don’t get time to get the players fit. They have to be ready. When they come into camp, we get two training sessions, and those two training sessions are short on detail.”
Not only will the second round of qualifiers decided who progresses to the next phase of World Cup qualifying, but it will also decide who partakes in the AFC Asian Cup. For Australia to qualify, they must finish top two in their group.
The Socceroos will take on Bangladesh, Lebanon and Palestine in a series of home-and-away qualifiers between November 2023 and June 2024.