Harry Kewell is set to head a Socceroos squad blending overseas and A-League players for next week’s World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia in Melbourne.
With nothing hinging on the game for Australia who are already through to the next qualifying stage, coach Holger Osieck is expected to call on several A-League players for the match when he names the side on Tuesday.
An overseas contingent headed by skipper Lucas Neill – and perhaps dual World Cup midfielder Mark Bresciano – is likely to feature.
But Melbourne Victory’s Kewell, who is arguably the form Australian player in the A-League, is a certain call-up for the February 29 match at AAMI Park.
The 33-year-old has been in superb touch for his club, scoring two well-taken goals in a 3-2 loss to the Brisbane Roar at the weekend and outstanding in six of his past eight matches.
Kewell has also proved his durability this season, playing 20 of the Victory’s 22 A-League games and scoring seven goals.
In-form Brisbane Roar are likely to provide several players for the Socceroos, with midfielders Mitch Nichols and Erik Paartalu believed to be under serious consideration.
But Paartalu, who has played at Australian under-17 level and whose precision passing and rugged tackling has been a feature for the Roar, isn’t getting his hopes up.
“It would nice to get a call-up but I wouldn’t be upset if I don’t,” said Paartalu.
While Australia are through to the final 10 teams in Asia after winning four of their five matches, the match has huge implications for the Saudis.
They, Oman and Thailand can all still qualify in second place in the group – Oman and Thailand meeting in the other match which kicks off at the same time.
Also of interest will be the actual kick-off time for Australia’s match, with an 8.30pm or 9.30pm timeslot mooted because of the need to play the matches simultaneously.
That is also expected to be confirmed on Tuesday.