Ajdin Hrustic survives cut in Socceroos squad
UNCAPPED winger Ajdin Hrustic has survived the cut and made the Socceroos' 23-man squad for the World Cup Qualifier against Saudi Arabia next week, as well as the friendly with Brazil at the MCG and Confederations Cup.
Hrustic, defender Dylan McGowan and Sydney FC goalkeeper Danny Vukovic are the three uncapped players in a familiar looking squad that faces a massive month of international football.
It starts with a make-or-break qualifier against the Middle East nation at Adelaide Oval on Thursday, June 8 and includes a glamour friendly against Brazil at the MCG on Tuesday, June 13, before the tournament in Russia, where Australia is grouped with Chile, Germany and Cameroon.
A-League grand final winner Rhyan Grant has not been retained from the 30-man squad named last week, while Turkish based left-back Aziz Behich earns a recall ahead of Alex Gersbach.
Hrustic's selection is the most interesting one, with reports the 20-year-old, who played five times for FC Groningen in Holland in his breakthrough season, would have been pursued by Bosnia and Herzegovina's under-21s had he not been chosen in Australia's squad.
He is included alongside winger Robbie Kruse, who only played four times in 2017 before leaving Chinese club Liaoning Whowin earlier this month, at the expense of fellow Dutch-based winger Craig Goodwin, who made 12 starts and scored four goals for Sparta Rotterdam.
With Tom Rogic capping his return from injury with a fabulous winner for Celtic in the Scottish Cup final, and Australia's wealth of talent in midfield, inexperienced trio James Jeggo, Mustafa Amini and Riley McGree make way.
Former Brisbane Roar striker Jamie Maclaren has also been included, ahead of his first season abroad in 2.Bundesliga with Darmstadt.
"There has been some tough decisions in cutting the squad from 30 down to the final 23 but that's a good sign of the strength of the squad we have been able to name and the depth we have been able to cultivate over the last three years,” Postecoglou said.
"If you look through the squad we now have a core group of players who have played 30, 40 and more caps and have experienced World Cup, Asian Cup and the tough road of World Cup qualifying.
"There are some players who are unlucky to miss out but if you look at the 23 players we have selected everyone has earned their Socceroos call up whether they are one of the experienced players with World Cup and Asian Cup experience or the three uncapped players.
"June is a big month and we will need to test that depth but initially our focus is solely on the World Cup Qualifier against Saudi Arabia at Adelaide Oval on June 8.”
Postecoglou's squad will start arriving in Australia from Friday, with players such as Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield promotion), Mitch Langerak (Stuttgart promotion) and Tom Rogic (Celtic treble) arriving with silverware, while others like Trent Sainsbury (Inter Milan debut), Maclaren, Mathew Leckie and Dylan McGowan have secured their club futures.
"We're pleased with the momentum a lot of the players will bring into camp with good form, fitness and success with their clubs,” Postecoglou said.
"Many of the boys will come into camp on the back of winning trophies and breakthrough seasons and that confidence and enthusiasm will help us in Adelaide and beyond.
"We face a very tough test against Saudi Arabia and then the opportunity to play four big nations in Australia and overseas.
"The next four weeks will be crucial in our quest to not only qualify for the 2018 World Cup but to make an impact when we get there.”
The side currently sits third in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and plays Saudi Arabia, currently alongside Japan in the automatic qualifying positions, three points ahead of Australia in the group qualifying table.
After the Confederations Cup, Australia has qualifiers away in Japan and at home against Thailand to round out the quest for Russia.
If they remain third, the side would have to playoff against third in Asia's Group A - currently Uzbekistan, with the winner of that home-and-away series to face the fifth-placed finisher in North and Central America, currently Honduras, trailing USA only on goal difference.