After two lackluster performances in their previous World Cup Qualifying outings, the Socceroos need to pick up results to ensure World Cup qualification. As Graham Arnold ponders his squad selection, we look at some players that can be included to make an impact.
Despite an 11 game winning streak, Graham Arnold’s Socceroos have recently encountered turbulence in their bid to qualify for the 2022 Qatar World Cup.
The winning streak was snapped by a loss away to Japan in October. The Socceroos followed up that result with two disappointing draws, at home to Saudi Arabia and away to China, meaning the national team has picked up two of the last nine points available.
Despite those results not being catastrophic to Australia’s World Cup chances, it does put it in a very precarious position.
Australia is currently third in the qualifying standing, meaning if the qualifying ended in this state, Australia would be forced into a winner takes all play-off for its World Cup opportunity, with the top two teams automatically qualifying.
The Socceroos next face Vietnam at home and Oman away, where the aim is to get back to winning ways. The matches are even more important considering Australia’s final two qualifying matchdays come against group leaders Japan and Saudi Arabia, two sides that Australia has already dropped points against.
The importance of these matches put a magnifying glass on Graham Arnold’s squad and match day selections.
Performance in domestic football should be the overwhelming factor in national team selection and since November, a few Australian players have enjoyed strong continuity and form that could warrant a call up.
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There are two names synonymous with the Australian national team in recent times, and they should be called up to provide that extra bit of quality and skill that can make a difference when push comes to shove.
Tom Rogic and Aaron Mooy missed the last Socceroos squad through injury. Since then, both have returned to playing regular football at their match winning best and should be automatic inclusions in Arnold’s squad.
Rogic came into this year dogged with transfer speculation after a couple of Scottish Premier League seasons below his high standards. That all changed with the introduction of former Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou.
The 29-year-old has returned to his dazzling best, so far recording three goals and five assists in his 17 games this season to go along with Cetlic’s success in winning the Scottish League Cup. His creativity and goal-scoring prowess can ensure Australia is more impactful with the ball.
Mooy is back playing regularly for Shanghai Port FC, and that should be music to the ears of Graham Arnold. A player with the top league and international experience in the heart of midfield can make the world of difference.
Not only has Mooy been playing regularly, but the former Brighton & Hove Albion man has hit a rich vein of form, scoring three goals in his last two outing for Shanghai Port FC.
Both Rogic and Mooy can cut a defence open with their passing and dribbling and are not strangers to scoring. They will be crucial if Australia is to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.
The players below are in good form, and could be looked at by Arnold to plug holes in his line up.
With the impressive Harry Souttar going down with an injured ACL, Arnold will be looking for some defensive cover for his squad. The answer can be found in the heart of Melbourne City’s defence in the form of Curtis Good.
Good is a strong defender, and has been a stalwart for Melbourne City during the Championship winning year and early this season.
The ever-reliable defender is a key player for Patrick Kisnorbo and has performed at a high level for a long time. His form got him his first national team call up since 2014 in June and the Souttar injury should present him another well-deserved opportunity.Embed from Getty Images
Former Melbourne City and now Hearts of Midlothian full back Nathaniel Atkinson can also be a potential inclusion.
Atkinson’s form has propelled him to high regard in the eyes of A-League Men fans. At the age of 22, with a high quality season behind him, Atkinson can be the long term solution in the right back position for the Socceroos.
He would have to compete with current starter, Rhyan Grant, for that position but strong performances for Hearts can cement him as the starter for years.
‘Smokeys’ going forward
These players are unlikely to receive a call up in the next national team squad but if they continue their strong form in a consistent fashion, they would be hard to deny.
Connor Metcalfe has picked up where he left off for Melbourne City last season. A midfielder that can run all day and a strong contributor in the final third, Arnold has already shown confidence in the youngster who will be an important player for the next generation of the Socceroos.
Josh Brillante has returned from Greece and has been the bedrock of Melbourne Victory’s midfield. If Arnold is looking for a different option in his midfield pivot, Brillante is a strong, reliable choice.
Jake Brimmer has announced himself as one of the better creative players in A League Men. His strong start to life under Tony Popovic could catapult him into the fringes of national selection.
The potential return of star midfielders in Rogic and Mooy makes it difficult for these players to return to the Socceroos fold at the moment.
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