Sydney: Teenage supersub Garang Kuol and former Scotland international Jason Cummings were included in Australia’s squad for the World Cup but experienced central defender Trent Sainsbury was a surprise omission.
Sainsbury has been a mainstay at the heart of Australia’s defence since the Asian Cup triumph of 2015 and coach Graham Arnold said it had been one of several difficult decisions he had to make.
“He hasn’t played for a number of weeks,” he told reporters from Doha, where the Socceroos will face France, Tunisia and Denmark in Group D in their fifth successive trip to the finals.
“Overall, I’ve gone for players like Harry Souttar, Kye Rowles, who have done exceptionally well and continue to do well. Tough decision to make.” Arnold said the watchwords for his selections had been energy and adaptability with 17 of the squad playing at their first World Cup.
Apart from when Tim Cahill was on the pitch, goals have always been hard to come by for Australia at World Cups and the inclusion of Central Coast Mariners team mates Kuol and Cummings offers Arnold fresh, if untested, options up front.
Kuol, 18, has yet to start a senior professional match but blinding pace and an eye for goal have made him an electrifying force off the bench for the Mariners and in his one international for Australia.
“The kid just needs to be himself,” Arnold said of the 18-year-old. “Garang has showed how he can change a game. He has zero fear and he wants to entertain.” Cummings, who played twice for Scotland but qualifies for Australia through his mother, is an effervescent presence both on and off the pitch and has scored goals throughout his career and found the target on his Australia debut.
Mitch Langerak was also expected to be included as one of the back up goalkeepers to Mat Ryan after ending his brief international retirement but lost out to Danny Vukovic and Andrew Redmayne, the hero of Australia’s playoff win over Peru.
Ryan will captain the team at his third World Cup.
Midfielder Tom Rogic also missed out but not because he pulled out of the playoffs that got Australia to Qatar for personal reasons, Arnold said.
Arnold admitted that some of his picks were gambles, with the likes of Souttar, Nathaniel Atkinson and Rowles coming back from injury and lacking playing time.
“They are risks, but that’s what it’s all about,” he said. “I’ve taken risks before and I will do so again.” Roma’s promising young midfielder Cristian Volpato, born in Sydney to Italian parents, was offered a place in the squad but turned it down, Arnold said.
Defenders: Harry Souttar, Milos Degenek, Bailey Wright, Thomas Deng, Fran Karacic, Nathaniel Atkinson, Aziz Behich, Kye Rowles, Joel King.
Midfielders: Aaron Mooy, Jackson Irvine, Ajdin Hrustic, Cameron Devlin, Riley McGree, Keanu Baccus Forwards: Jamie Maclaren, Mitchell Duke, Jason Cummings, Garang Kuol, Awer Mabil, Mathew Leckie, Craig Goodwin, Martin Boyle.