The Socceroos have been dealt a massive blow on the eve of one of their most crucial fixtures since the 2015 Asian Cup final. Star midfielder Tom Rogic has withdrawn from the squad, citing “personal reasons”.
The former Celtic midfielder missed the fixtures against Japan and Saudi Arabia and was due to return to the national setup.
Rogic has been in a rich vein of form after winning yet another Scottish league title with Celtic. His fellow players had nominated him for the PFA SPFL Player of the Year award. Rogic had recently announced he was searching for a new challenge in club football and leaving the Scottish powerhouse. There will be no replacement for Rogic in the 29-man squad.
Graham Arnold said he had selected “an extended squad of quality players” and despite the “unfortunate” withdrawal of the midfielder, he had faith in the players left in camp. Although the news he was missing, one of his most influential midfielders was clearly disappointing for the Aussie gaffer. “My focus must now be on the players we have here in Qatar,” the Aussie head coach said. “We have selected an extended squad of quality players, and I believe we will achieve something special for Australia over the next two weeks.”
28 man squad named for 'do or die' clash
The squad is one of the stronger squads in recent times. Many overseas-based stars have earned recalls for the play-in fixtures. Shanghai SIPG player Aaron Mooy is one of the biggest names recalled to the squad.
Jackson Irvine and Bailey Wright also received recalls by the Socceroos. Cerezo Osaka striker Adam Taggart will return to the fold after missing out last time around.
Some quarters raised questions about the absence of some A League men's talent. Central Coast Mariners Mark Birighitti, the goalkeeper of the year this season, and Jason Cummings both were notable omissions.
The selection of Sydney FC’s keeper Andrew Redmayne raised eyebrows, along with Melbourne Victory’s left-back, Jason Davidson. Davidson hasn't played for Australia since November 2015.
Bruno Fornaroli didn't receive a call-up this time around. The former Uruguayyouth international made his Socceroos debut in the last set of fixtures.
Australia is staring down the barrel of missing their first World Cup since 2006. Anything other than a victory on Wednesday next week against the United Arab Emirates will see Graham Arnold’s men eliminated.
A victory will see them progress to an intercontinental playoff against South American nation Peru. The Socceroos begin their preparation for these two do-or-die clashes by facing Jordan on Thursday morning (AEST).