After an emotional campaign with the Olyroos in Tokyo, head coach Graham Arnold won’t have much time to spend thinking about what could’ve been.
The ex-striker will have just over a month to reload his batteries before the Australian men’s national football team, the Socceroos, is back in action.
Australia was drawn in Group B for the third phase of qualifying along with Japan, Vietnam, Oman, China, and Saudi Arabia. The top two teams will qualify for Qatar 2022 and the third-placed nation will advance to a play-off match.
Coming into August, we should have a good idea of what the roster for these games will look like. Given that this is the third and final phase of the qualifiers, seeing new faces in the team is highly unlikely, but there could be some exceptions due to injuries.
The Inner Sanctum breaks down Australia’s national team squad into four distinct tiers: certain starters, players who will definitely be called up, squad players who will likely play some kind of a role, and finally the outside contenders who could surprisingly come in.
One player that we won’t include in any of these tiers is Matt Ryan, who’s expected to miss the upcoming season after injuring his knee.
Let’s take a look.
Tier 1- Certain Starters
Aaron Mooy – Shanghai Port
Jackson Irvine – FC St. Pauli
Jamie Maclaren – Melbourne City
Harry Souttar – Stoke City
Ajdin Hrustic – Eintracht Frankfurt
Danny Vukovic – NEC Nijmegen
Mathew Leckie – Melbourne City
These are the players that look most likely to be consistent starters and leaders for the Socceroos once round three begins.
Irvine, Maclaren, Souttar, Hrustic, Vukovic, and Leckie impressed in June’s matches, and Mooy is arguably the best outfield player in the whole country. All seven have good European pedigrees and experience in some of the biggest leagues in the world.
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Tier 2 – In the Squad
Tom Rogic – Celtic FC
Andrew Redmayne – Sydney FC
Milos Degenek – Crvena Zvezda
Trent Sainsbury – KV Kortrijk
Aziz Behich – Istanbul Basaksehir
Rhyan Grant – Sydney FC
Riley McGree – Birmingham City
Kenneth Dougall – Blackpool
Martin Boyle – Hibernian
Fran Karacic – Brescia
These players have all done enough to prove that they deserve to be called up for the crucial qualifiers in September.
Tom Rogic should be in this time, after recovering from an injury. Redmayne is expected to be the number two behind Vukovic, now that Ryan is injured. One of Degenek and Sainsbury will most likely partner Souttar in the heart of the defence, flanked by Behich on the left and Grant or Karacic on the right.
Dougall and Boyle are two options that Arnold trusts and will use, while McGree has definitely earned his place after impressing with the Olyroos during their time in Tokyo.
Tier 3 – In the Conversation
Adam Federici – Macarthur FC
Lawrence Thomas – SønderjyskE
Brad Smith – Seattle Sounders FC
Curtis Good – Melbourne City
Ryan McGowan – Kuwait SC
Ruon Tongyik – Central Coast Mariners
Massimo Luongo – Sheffield Wednesday
James Jeggo – Aris Thessaloniki
James Holland – LASK
Denis Genreau – Toulouse
Connor Metcalfe – Melbourne City
Nikita Rukavytsya – Free agent
Christopher Ikonomidis – Melbourne Victory
Awer Mabil – FC Midtjylland
Mitchell Duke – Fagiano Okayama
Brandon Borello – Dynamo Dresden
All these players seem to have a decent chance of making Arnold’s squad for the games in September after recently impressing for club or country.
Federici and Thomas will likely be Redmayne’s competition for the goalkeeper spot on the bench. Smith, Good, McGowan, and Tongyik will be fighting to earn more caps after they were all named in the most recent Socceroos squad.
Luongo and Jeggo will be hoping for a return to the national team after missing the last couple of games due to injuries, and James Holland is another player who gives Arnold options in the middle of the park.
Genreau and Metcalfe are two interesting midfield options that could force their way into the roster following some very good outings for the Olyroos in Tokyo. Both of them shined in the historical win over Argentina and held their own versus a Spain side full of stars.
Rukavytsya, Ikonomidis, Mabil, Duke, and Borello are the attackers expected to cover for the likes of Maclaren, Boyle, and Leckie.
Tier 4 – Depth Options
Apostolos Giannou – OFI Crete
Adam Taggart – Cerezo Osaka
Bailey Wright – Sunderland
Mustafa Amini – Apollon Limassol
Andrew Nabbout – Melbourne City
Daniel Arzani – Manchester City
Nathaniel Atkinson – Melbourne City
Joel King – Sydney FC
Marco Tilio – Melbourne City
Thomas Deng – Urawa Red Diamonds
Here are a couple of outside contenders who haven’t had much success with the national team recently or haven’t been called up before but could surprisingly come in. Giannou and Taggart were in for the qualifiers in June, but both had their problems and didn’t actually play much of a role.
Nabbout was also expected to take part in the last camp, but missed out due to an adductor tear. Wright and Amini on the other hand haven’t been capped since 2019, and will be trying to force their way into the coach’s thinking.
And last but not least, Arzani, Atkinson, King, Tilio, and Deng will be hoping to have done enough in Tokyo in order to make a senior appearance. All have the talent but will be face serious competition for the final slots.
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