Socceroos squad finalized for World Cup play-offs against United Arab Emirates as A-League Men stars rewarded by Graham Arnold

Socceroos head coach Graham Arnold has rewarded the outstanding performances of several A-League Men players with recalls to the national team ahead of Australia’s must-win World Cup play-off against the United States. United Arab Emirates on June 8.

Melbourne Victory defender Jason Davidson returns to the side for the first time since 2015 after a stellar season with the club, helping them finish second after a 14-game unbeaten streak that ended just one point behind the Premiers from Melbourne City.

Davidson is joined by Adelaide United top scorer and assist leader Craig Goodwin, who has led the Reds to fourth place with ten goals in 26 appearances.

Melbourne City striker and ALM Golden Boot winner Jamie Maclaren, who missed Australia’s clash against Saudi Arabia to get married, is also recalled. Maclaren’s 16 goals saw him become the first male player to win three Golden Boots in ALM history.

Young Victory striker Nick D’Agostino will also join Arnold’s squad as he continued to impress throughout the end of the season, although questions surround D’s team-mate’s absence. Agostino, Jake Brimmer, whose seven goals and seven assists for Victory saw him recently awarded the Johnny Warren Medal.

Another notable absence is Central Coast Mariners striker Jason Cummings, who has scored ten goals since joining the club from Gosford in January and has since become a fan favorite on and off the pitch.

The 26-year-old has represented Scotland at senior level but has expressed an interest in switching allegiance to Australia if given the chance.

Jason Cummings is one of a handful of players who were previously overlooked for selection despite outstanding performances in the ALM.(Getty Images: Robert Cianflone)

The Socceroos won’t be short of striking options, however, with Cerezo Osaka striker Adam Taggart returning to the side after an injury layoff meaning there’s no room for him. former Uruguayan and Perth Glory marksman Bruno Fornaroli, who was unexpectedly called up by Arnold in March after the team suffered heavy player losses due to COVID-19.

City winger Mathew Leckie has also been selected after injury kept him out of action for club and country earlier this year alongside team-mate Marco Tilio, while compatriot Connor Metcalfe is out.

There is also no room for Victory winger Ben Folami, Belgian James Jeggo or Sydney FC defender Rhyan Grant. Other notable absentees include ALM Goalkeeper of the Year Mark Birighitti, Urawa Red Diamonds defender Thomas Deng and in-form Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Massimo Luongo.

However, the Socceroos midfielder will nonetheless be stacked with European experience as Aaron Mooy, Jackson Irvine and Tom Rogic all return alongside creative midfielder Ajdin Hrustic, who recently won the Europa League with the Bundesliga Eintracht Frankfurt, as well as Denis Genreau, who scored the winner of French club Toulouse’s promotion play-off to Ligue 1 earlier this month.

A man in football gear points to the sky in celebration.
Ajdin Hrustic scored a penalty for Frankfurt in their Europa League triumph over Rangers earlier this month.(Getty Images: Joaquin Corchero)

“Our journey to qualifying for this year’s World Cup has been difficult, however, the greater the challenge, the greater the reward,” Arnold said.

“Just like in 2017 and 2005, I’m confident our boys will come out of the play-off system and seal Australia a place at the World Cup.

“We have selected a great squad for this window for a number of reasons, but first and foremost because many of our players have been in great form for their clubs in recent months. Additionally, with several players set to enter the UAE game in yellow cards, we had to make sure we had coverage in all areas.

The 29-man squad will meet in Doha this weekend ahead of a warm-up game against Jordan on Thursday, six days before they face the United Arab Emirates in a must-see fixture in the early hours of June 8.

If they beat the United Arab Emirates, they will then advance to the play-off finals against Peru on Tuesday, June 14.

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