Socceroos call on their Foreign Legion as Mooy, Rogic, Wright, and Arzani all return for World Cup qualifers

Aaron Mooy, Tom Rogic, Bailey Wright, and Daniel Arzani will return to the Socceroos setup for coming World Cup Qualifiers against China and Vietnam, with quarantine requirements restricting coach Graham Arnold to just a single A-League representative in his 27-player squad.

Named on Satuday afternoon, Arnold’s side will assemble in Doha over the next 48 hours and undergo COVID testing before commencing training in preperation for next Friday’s meeting with China.

Sydney FC’s Rhyan Grant is the only A-League based player named in the team, which is set to jet off to a location still to be confirmed by Football Australia to face Vietnam on the Tuesday following their clash with Li Tie’s side.

A combination of personal, professional and fitness issues meant that mainstays Mooy and Rogic were absent from the side that secured an undefeated conclusion to its opening phase of 2022 World Cup qualification in June, while 24-time capped Wright hasn’t featured since the 5-0 win over Nepal in October of 2019. A standout at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Arzani is in the frame to make his first senior appearance for Australia since thrice coming off the bench during the 2018 World Cup.

With Fran Karacic out with injury, Football Australia has negotiated an agreement with the Sky Blues that will see Grant remain in the Middle East with the national team and their elite training setup through the October international window.

Alongside these returnees, Ryan Strain, Callum Elder, and Paul Izzo — the latter called in to provide added cover for Mat Ryan’s recovery from injury– all loom as potential debutants, while veteran regulars Jackson Irvine, Milos Degenek, Trent Sainsbury, and Aziz Behich have returned.

Arzani, Harry Souttar, Denis Genreau, Riley McGree, and overage representative Mitch Duke will all back-up from the Olympics, with Arnold declaring that he likely would have selected more from that Olyroos group had they not had to undergo 14-days of hotel quarantine upon their return to Australia after the Games.

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“We’ve had to take a different strategy, obviously, with challenges all around Australia,” Arnold said. “For me, it’s a good squad. It’s a squad that I’m excited about; one that I do believe will bring great energy into the camp — and that’s the most important thing, that they bring that energy in.

“They know what it means to play for their country and I expect that the boys [will] put a smile on all those Australian faces back at home.”

Absent from the June fixtures for personal reasons, Mooy last featured for the Socceroos in November of 2019 and, with the Chinese Super League’s 2021 season significantly disrupted, hasn’t played a minute of football with Shanghai Port since May.

Nonetheless, Arnold is confident the 30-year-old will be able to contribute in the coming contests.

“Aaron, it’s especially great to get him back and see him,” the coach said. “It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen Aaron. He’s gone through some tough times and we’ve been there to support him through those times. He’s looking so forward to catching up with his mates and get back in the Socceroos family and enjoy himself again.

“Through past experiences… when Aaron comes in here I expect he’ll be in good shape. Freshness and adrenaline will get him through these games — once he puts that shirt back on, once he’s around his mates again.

“He may not have played for quite a while but he’s a top-class player. He’s a great guy, he’ll come in here and be around his mates, his energy will go through the roof and he will be able to get through these two games on freshness and adrenaline.”

Rogic also hasn’t featured for the Socceroos since 2019 but, unlike Mooy, has been a frequent contributor at club level as of late; playing regularly under Ange Postecoglou at Celtic and set to face off with Rangers in the Old Firm derby on Sunday before linking up with the squad.

See Also: Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou’s first 10 games: Highs, lows and lots of goals as ‘Angeball’ takes shape

“Tommy is doing fantastic with Ange at Celtic,” said Arnold. “Tommy’s always been up for selection — [he] was always a part of the 23.

“[Rogic’s absence from previous Socceroos games] was all about Tommy getting his ankle right, getting physically right and being ready for this third phase of World Cup qualifiers. It’s exactly what it is.

“I do know that with Tommy it’s a case that [if] he feels that the coach has a lot of belief and a lot of trust in him that he’s happy in life. You can see all those things are happening at Celtic and it’s great to see him back on the field and doing himself and his family proud. I expect that will happen with us in this camp.”

Football Australia had hoped that the fixture against China would be able to be staged in Sydney under strict ‘bubble’ conditions that would allow for hotel quarantine to be bypassed — allowing players to both enter Australia and play within the international window and then allow the Socceroos to head to South East Asia for their fixture against Vietnam and China to head to Qatar for their qualifier against Japan on September 8.

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However, with the continued spread of the Delta variant of COVID throughout their state — 1035 new cases of the virus were reported on Saturday — the New South Wales government, the only state government to display significant interest in waving standard quarantine requirements, was forced to shelve those plans — unable to spare the security and police that would have been required to enforce the ‘bubble’ for both teams.

See Also: Australia’s World Cup qualifiers will test Socceroos’ squad depth

As well as stymying efforts to stage home qualifiers during the September international window — Football Australia remains intent on negotiating arrangements for home fixtures in later windows in 2021 — the hotel quarantine requirements in place in Australia led to the withdrawal of captain Mat Leckie, amongst others, from consideration from national selection until circumstances changed.

“Probably about another seven or eight [players],” Arnold said when asked how many players from the A-League were unavailable due to quarantine regulations.

“I don’t want to mention players personally. I spoke to the players and [Football Australia Performance Director] Paddy Steinfortand and the Federation spoke to the clubs and coaches. I spoke to all the players to support the player’s decisions.

“At the end of the day, everyone has personal reasons and personal issues in life and for a lot of those players, it was around the 14-day quarantine coming back to Australia. A number of them had already done it twice in the last three to six months.

“That 14-day quarantine, the toll that it takes on the body; not only the mental aspect but the physical aspect, the players felt that they couldn’t do it again. I’m just here to support the players.

“I think that through this pandemic, I think the coaching role, the managing role is more about man-management and being there to support the players with those type of decisions and I do support them 100%.”

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Socceroos 27-Player Squad | 30 August – 7 September 2021 | FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 – AFC Asian Qualifiers

Name – Club – Country – ‘A’ International Caps (Goals)

Daniel ARZANI Lommel SK, Belgium 6 (1)
Aziz BEHICH Giresunspor, Turkey 41 (2)
Martin BOYLE Hibernian FC, Scotland 7 (3)
Milos DEGENEK Red Star Belgrade, Serbia 31 (1)
Kenneth DOUGALL Blackpool FC, England 3 (0)
Mitchell DUKE Fagiano Okayama, Japan 9 (4)
Callum ELDER Hull City AFC, England 0 (0)
Denis GENREAU Toulouse FC, France 1 (0)
Rhyan GRANT Sydney FC, Australia 14 (0)
Ajdin HRUSTIC Eintracht Frankfurt, Germany 7 (1)
Jackson IRVINE FC St. Pauli, Germany 37 (6)
Paul IZZO (Gk) Xanthi FC, Greece 0 (0)
James JEGGO Aris Thessaloniki, Greece 5 (0)
Awer MABIL FC Midtjylland, Denmark 17 (4)
Ryan MCGOWAN Kuwait SC, Kuwait 21 (0)
Riley MCGREE Birmingham City FC, England 3 (0)
Aaron MOOY Shanghai Port FC, China PR 43 (6)
Tom ROGIC Celtic FC, Scotland 47 (9)
Mathew RYAN (Gk) Real Sociedad, Spain 61 (0)
Trent SAINSBURY KV Kortrijk, Belgium 50 (3)
Brad SMITH Seattle Sounders FC, United States of America 22 (0)
Harry SOUTTAR Stoke City FC, England 5 (6)
Ryan STRAIN Maccabi Haifa, Israel 0 (0)
Adam TAGGART Cerezo Osaka, Japan 12 (6)
Lawrence THOMAS (Gk) SønderjyskE Fodbold, Denmark 1 (0)
Danny VUKOVIC (Gk) NEC Nijmegen, Netherlands 4 (0)
Bailey WRIGHT Sunderland AFC, England 24 (1)

Header Image Credit: Football Australia

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