Adelaide teen a bolter in Socceroos squad
SOCCEROOS boss Ange Postecoglou has sprung the biggest selection shock of his tenure as Australia boss, choosing 18-year-old Adelaide United midfielder Riley McGree in a provisional 30-man squad to face Iraq and United Arab Emirates in pivotal World Cup qualifiers this month.
The squad will be trimmed to 23 after this weekend's games to give the players one last shot at stating their cases.
McGree, who has just 709 minutes of senior A-League experience, headlines a squad full of surprises for the double header in Tehran on March 23 and Sydney on March 28.
Sydney FC duo Rhyan Grant and Danny Vukovic are two other A-League bolters, the former getting his first taste of senior international football, while uncapped goalkeeper Vukovic, 31, returns to the squad for the first time since January 2010.
Asian Cup goal scoring hero James Troisi returns to the fold for the first time since November 2015, but there have also been surprise recalls for Perth Glory utility Rhys Williams and Brisbane Roar captain Matt McKay.
Postecoglou is a fan of both experienced players, with the former's last cap before injury coming in the Socceroos boss's first game in charge, against Costa Rica in 2013 alongside Lucas Neill.
It caps an impressive turnaround for the 28-year-old, who was seemingly on the outer at his A-League club just a few weeks ago.
Postecoglou promised to keep any plateauing Socceroos on their toes when he named this squad, and with key World Cup qualifiers kicking-off a huge 2017 for Australian football, he has done so by shaking up the squad with some fresh faces, rewarding players who are playing regularly across the globe.
They include winger Awer Mabil (21), playmaker Mustafa Amini (23) and midfielder Ryan Edwards (23).
He has stuck true to word by dipping into the A-League, with seven local based players chosen, alongside regulars headlined by skipper Mile Jedinak, Championship aces Aaron Mooy and Jackson Irvine, as well as Mat Ryan and Trent Sainsbury, fresh off moves to new European countries.
Tom Rogic is the biggest absentee through injury, while centre-back Matthew Spiranovic is the biggest casualty from the last squad, not included due to Hangzhou Chinese second division season not yet being underway.
Jamie Maclaren, Apostolos Giannou, Josh Risdon and the injured Adam Federici are the other players to miss out from the last camp in 2016, while Sydney FC veteran Alex Wilkinson has also been overlooked despite the inclusion of his Premiership leading defensive teammates.
Postecoglou has kept faith with attacking options Robbie Kruse and Nathan Burns despite their seasons in China and Japan just starting, while Tomi Juric's return from injury is timely given the paucity of options up front.
"We have named an extended squad with a few notable returns but we will make a final decision after this weekend's matches around Australia, Asia and Europe," Postecoglou said.
"With the Asian leagues and some countries in Europe only just starting I wanted to have another look.
"There is also recognition for some players who have been in good form in the A-League and have the characteristics to fit in with some of our experienced players as we move into an important stretch of qualifying.
"It is encouraging to have the experience of Tim Cahill, Tomi Juric, Mass Luongo, Mitch Langerak and James Troisi back in the squad but we also have some players who have been on the fringe who have been knocking on the door of both the squad and the starting side."
SOCCEROOS SQUAD TO PLAY UAE AND IRAQ
Mat Ryan (Genk, Belgium), Mitchell Langerak (Stuttgart, Germany), Danny Vukovic (Sydney FC)
Rhyan Grant (Sydney FC), Milos Degenek (Yokohama), Trent Sainsbury (Inter Milan, Italy), Rhys Williams (Perth Glory), Bailey Wright (Bristol City, England), Alex Gersbach (Rosenborg, Norway), Brad Smith (Bournemouth, England), Aziz Behich (Bursaspor)
Mile Jedinak (Aston Villa, England), Mark Milligan (Baniyas, UAE), Jackson Irvine (Burton, England), Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield, England), James Jeggo (Sturm Graz), Mustafa Amini (AGF, Denmark), Riley McGree (Adelaide), Ryan Edwards (Patrick Thistle, Scotland), Matt McKay (Brisbane Roar). Massimo Luongo (Queens Park Rangers, England)
Tim Cahill (Melbourne City), Tomi Juric (FC Luzern, Switzerland), Mathew Leckie (FC Ingolstadt, Germany), Robbie Kruse (Liaoning Whowin, China), Nathan Burns (FC Tokyo, Japan), Awer Mabil (Esbjerg fB, Denmark), Chris Ikonomidis (AGF, Denmark), Craig Goodwin (Sparta Rotterdam, Netherlands), James Troisi (Melbourne Victory)