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The players in contention for Socceroos selection in the Asian Cup

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3rd November, 2018

The A-League is back and many Australian football players are looking to prove their worth in the league.

Many are wanting to show that they stand out and could provide x-factor to the Australian national side come January. There are many Aussies overseas in Europe and Asia proving that they can be an important piece in Socceroos coach Graham Arnold’s side.

Many of these players will be looking to make the squad in November and show their talent against South Korea and Lebanon. It will be an interesting time for the national team, with a new coach, system and style.


Mathew Ryan

Australia’s number one goalkeeper for the past five years when Ange Postecoglou took over the national team in 2013. This year, he has been very impressive for Premier League side Brighton and Hove Albion.

He has pulled off many fantastic saves and has been key to Brighton recent run of wins. He’s kept three clean sheets in his past three games and looks set to remain number one at the Seagulls.

Regular game time and good form for Brighton during the next two months should see him cement his spot for the Asian cup and retain his spot as the national team number one.

Matthew Ryan Brighton and Hove Albion.

Mitchell Langerak
A talented goalkeeper who has been part of the national set-up like Ryan since 2013.

However, since leaving Australia, Langerak has struggled to be a first choice goalkeeper at club level.

In five years at Dortmund he played 35 matches, where he was the second and third-choice goalkeeper.

He played a full season with VfB Stuttgart in 2. Bundesliga in 2016-17 and did not play a single league game with Levante.

But he has played 29 games for Nagoya during this year’s J1 League and his talent has been on show. If he keeps his game time up, the 30-year old will be a sure place for the side in January and could challenge for that number one goalkeeper spot.

Danny Vukovic
An experienced goalkeeper who has joined the national team this year. Since moving to Belgian side Genk from Sydney FC in 2017, Vukovic has impressed in both Belgium and in the Europa League, where Genk are top of their group.

He has played all of their League and European games this season and his form has shown why he should be considered for one of the three goalkeeping spots.

He will be hoping to play in one of the two friendlies in November and to show Arnold that he is capable of claiming the number one jersey. Vukovic will face competition from other Australian goalkeepers to prove that he should be one those three keepers in the Asian Cup squad.


Brad Jones
The veteran goalkeeper’s handwork and determination is why he has been included in the 2018 FIFA World Cup squad.

He has impressed in the Netherlands for N.E.C and most recently, Feyenoord, where he played regular games and won both the League and Domestic cup.

Jones currently plays for Saudi Professional league side Al-Nassr, who are top of the league. He has played all seven games for them this year, conceding only four goals.

While talented and experienced, age is not on his side as Arnold may opt for a younger goalkeeper who would be part of the national team set-up in future years.

Other Players
Other names that will be on Arnold’s list of players to watch include experienced goalkeeper Adam Federici who plays at Stoke City, A-League Goalkeepers Lawrence Thomas and Paul Izzo, who have impressed over the past two years, returning Melbourne City goalkeeper Mark Birighitti and a potential surprise in Jack Duncan.

He is currently playing in the Saudi Professional League for Al Qadisiya and could impress Arnold over the next two months. The four names above of Ryan, Langerak, Vukovic and Jones will all be looking for regular game time and to impress and make the November squad.

But they will face pressure from some of the lesser known Aussie goalkeepers mentioned in this paragraph.

Paul Izzo flies high

(AAP Image/Brendan Esposito)



Full Backs

Aziz Behich
The left-back impressed at the World Cup and didn’t do much wrong (apart from his part in the second goal for France). His speedy runs and crosses were very good during the tournament and if he had a striker who could have finished, Behich would have found himself with a few assists.

He played over 100 matches for Turkish side Bursaspor before moving to PSV Eindhoven. He has played three games for PSV in the league and two in the cub.

While a talented left back, he will be wanting to play more games for PSV so he can show Arnold why he has been a regular in the side over the past two years.

Josh Risdon
Like Behich, Risdon played every game and in fact every minute of the 2018 World Cup. He has an impressive defender who can attack on the wings when needed.

He has impressed for the Wanderers over the past season and will be looking to continue this form into the new A-League season.

Despite his impressive play, Risdon will face tough opposition from fullbacks in stronger Leagues in Asia and Europe to retain his spot and make the squad in 2019.


Milos Degenek
Degenek recently joined Red Star Belgrade and has been in stellar form. Degenek has been impressive for the Socceroos since his debut in 2016 and is versatile, being able to play both in the right back and centre-back positions.

He is strong in both attack and defence, putting many dangerous balls into the box which led to Australia scoring on occasions. He has played 11 League games for Red Star this year and his recent form will be important in securing his spot as one of Arnold’s defenders.

Milos Degenek goes for the ball

James Meredith
Meredith has been on the list of players who have been on the fringe of the squad for the past three years. He has played over 50 games in the Championship for Millwall, showing that he can play regular football at a high level.

His international inexperience may be what costs him a spot, with only two matches for Australia, both coming in 2015. In saying that, his potential versatility as both a left back, centre-back and central midfielder may be what gives Meredith that extra edge.

Other Players
Other names that could be included on this list are the young Alex Gersbach, Ben Garuccio, Brad Smith, Jason Geria and Fran Karačič.

Each of these young fullbacks will be trying to prove that they should be selected in the squad. In addition, Sydney FC duo Rhyan Grant and Michael Zullo will be wanting to back up their impressive form over the past two seasons.

One player to look out for in the future is young Aussie and Leicester City left-back Callum Elder, who has played eight matches in the Premier League 2 for Leicester Under 23 side.



Trent Sainsbury
The key to the back four, the future captain and a leader. Trent Sainsbury has been a fantastic defender for the Socceroos in the past five years.

He leads the defence with class and had an excellent World Cup, with many European teams wanting to sign him as a result of his fantastic performances.

Currently, like Aussie counterpart Aziz Behich, Sainsbury has only played four games for PSV in the League and Cup this season. While he is just about a certainty to be in the Asian Cup Squad, he will face tough competition from other centre-backs if he does not get regular game time.

Mark Milligan
A versatile player who could play both the centre-back role and as a central midfielder. He has proved to be both a very good defensive and attacking player who isn’t afraid to shoot for goal.

A player similar to Sainsbury, who could also be the future captain of the Socceroos. He has played five of Hibernians nine matches in the Scottish Premiership.

He impressed at the World cup in the centre-back position and will be important in the 2019 Asian cup squad. Age isn’t on his side, but his experience, ability and leadership makes him a certainty.

Socceroos Mile Jedinak and Mark Milligan react after losing a World Cup game

Matt Jurman
Jurman made his debut in 2017 and impressed in arguably Australia’s most important four games of their 2018 World Cup qualification against Syria and Honduras.

He has enjoyed success in Japan for Suwon Samsung Bluewings and more recently for Al-Ittihad in Saudi Arabia, where he has played seven matches this season.

Juramn has looked like a stronger and hard defender in games for Australia. However, as a centre back, he made his debut during Postecoglou’s reign where he played three at the back.

If Arnold chooses to only play four at the back, as he did against Kuwait, Jurman may find it hard to break the partnership of Milligan and Sainsbury and may struggle to crack the starting eleven.

However, with regular game time and good form, Jurman should be there an be part of Australia’s 2019 campaign.

Bailey Wright
Another tough-tackling centre back, who could be seen as a potential leader of the Socceroos in the future. He should consider himself unlucky not to have made the 2018 World Cup squad.

A captain and regular defender at Bristol City, Wright has been cursed with a thigh injury and missed Bristol’s pre-season. He was meant to come back into the side earlier this month but the injury has kept him out.

If he wants to make the 2019 Asian cup squad he will have to get fit, gain some form, and play regularly. But if the injury keeps him out of the November side, he may find it hard to break into the 23 man squad in November.


Other Players
Young Thomas Deng and Aleksandar Sunsjar will be looking to impress Arnold and show that they could be considered for the 2019 Asian cup squad and for future sides, in particular, the closer we get to 2022.

Rhys Williams of Al Qadisiyah has played regular games in the Saudi League and will be hoping that injury doesn’t curse him this time from missing out on another tournament for the national side again.


Tom Rogic
One of the finest attacking midfielders Australia has ever produced. Playing for Celtic in the Scottish Premiership, year after year we have seen fantastic goals and plays from Rogic who has been key to their success.

For the national side, since being a regular starting eleven player in 2015, Rogic has scored eight goals in 32 games, averaging about one goal every four games.

A player who sets up goals and scores them, Rogic will just about be a certainty for 2019 and will be looking for Asian cup glory after missing out on being a part of the winning team in 2015.

Tom Rogic reacts after missing a shot

Aaron Mooy
Like Rogic, Mooy is one of the greatest midfielders Australia has ever uncovered. He played very well in the Premier League, with his ball control and movement being first class.


He will continue to star for Huddersfield Town but it will be a tough time for Mooy as his side looks to get out of the relegation zone.

For Australia, Mooy has been critically acclaimed and his performances in the World Cup were superb. There will be more responsibility now that Mile Jedinak has retired but like Rogic, Mooy is a certainty for the squad and will be looking for his first taste of Asian Cup glory.

Massimo Luongo
Luongo has become a star for Australia and will be looking to back up his MVP Asian Cup 2015 tournament with another fantastic one in 2019.

He is a player who can control the midfield and score goals when needed, more so at an international level. For QPR, Luongo has been a regular over the past four seasons and has been playing consistently well.

He too will just about be a certainty for the squad, but he will be wanting to prove himself in the friendly matches against South Korea and Lebanon.

Jackson Irvine
The Hull City player has been impressive since becoming a regular in the side in 2016. He has been an important part of their success.

A hard runner, attacker and occasional goal-scorer, he will be facing a tough challenge against Rogic, Mooy and Luongo in the bid to become one of the three midfielders in the starting eleven.

One element he will be looking to add to the national side is goals. While not a renowned scorer, in 2016-17 Irvine scored ten for Burton Albion, and this season he’s slotted three in 12 games.


The 25-year old has only scored two for the Socceroos so far and will be looking to add more goals when he plays for the national side.

Dimitri Petratos
A very exciting player to watch. After arguably his best season to date with the Jets, he was awarded with two caps in 2018 and a spot in the Socceroos squad.

He has both great ball-playing skills and is a goal-scoring weapon, managing ten goals in 27 matches last year. He will be hoping that games against South Korea and Lebanon will allow him to show that he could add a much-needed spark in attack to the Socceroos.

Dimitri Petratos of the Jets

Other Players
A-League players James Troisi, Josh Brillante, Brandon O’Neill, Terry Antonis and perhaps even young Daniel De Silva will be wanting to impress in these early rounds.

The next goal will be making the squad for the November friendlies and showing that they can be an important part of the side in 2019.

Mustafa Amini, Kenneth Dougall, and James Jeggo also have been playing a fair amount of matches for their respective clubs, while youngsters Ajdin Hrustic and Denis Genreau have impressed in the Eredivisie.

A surprise player to consider if his citizenship comes through is Adelaide United’s Isaias, an impressive ball player and their best performer over the past seasons.


If he can get his citizenship finalised before the Asian Cup he might be a player Arnold considers when picking the squad.


Robbie Kruse
Kruse is a speedy winger who can set up goals when needed but has been susceptible to injuries over the years.

He has been playing regular game as of late, appearing in nine matches so far this season in 2. Bundesliga. A regular in the national side since 2011, one thing Kruse needs to add to his game is goals.

In 67 games for Australia, Kruse has only put the ball behind the net five times. In a national side where the Socceroos already struggle for goals, Kruse must start to score goals on a regular basis to cement his spot in the squad.

Mathew Leckie
A fast winger who has the ability to put brilliant balls into the box and score goals.

Since 2017, in 19 games for Australia, Leckie has scored five goals – that’s about bout one goal every four games, not a bad return for a winger.

He currently plays in the Bundesliga for Hertha BSC but has only managed three games for them this year.


Granted he had an injury problem early in the season, Leckie will need to be excellent in the league in order to break into an impressive Hertha team.

Like Kruse, Leckie will need to add more goals to his game to be one of Arnold’s starting wingers.

Tomi Juric
He has been Australia’s first-choice striker since 2015. Juric just made his return to the League for FC Luzern in the Swiss League.

In 57 matches for Luzern he has scored 15 goals. He will need to start scoring more if he wants to be Australia’s number one striker.

Further to this, he has only scored 8 goals in 38 matches for the national side and will be looking to showcase his attacking ability in the two friendly games.

Tomi Juric Australia Football Socceroos 2017

Apostolos Giannou
Giannou has been a part of the national set-up since 2016 and has played six games, scoring one goal against Kuwait.

He has scored 29 times in 88 games in all club games since 2015, which isn’t a bad return. But this season, he will need to score more regularly to prove that he should be the striker in the Socceroos squad.


Andrew Nabbout
A new player to the national side this year. He joined after an impressive season with the Jets where he scored ten goals in 22 games.

He was rewarded with a spot at the World Cup, where he impressed in the pre-tournament games and during the tournament, before unfortunately injuring himself.

Nabbout scored his first goal against the Czech Republic and while he has only scored once in six matches for the national team, he has arguably played against harder opposition in France and Denmark compared to many of his other counterparts up front.

If he can fire for Urawa in Japan, he will cement his spot in the Socceroos squad and could also be the player to help fix their attacking woes.

Jamie Maclaren
Maclaren really impressed many critics when he played in Brisbane, scoring an impressive 40 goals in 53 matches for the Roar.

He had a frustrating start to the 2017-18 season as he struggled for game time for SV Darmstadt 98, until he joined Hibernian and scored eight goals in 15 matches.

While he has only scored once in six games for Hibernian this season, he is one of the only Australian strikers who has proven he can score on a regular basis.

Daniel Arzani
He is one of the most exciting prospects from Australia in recent years. After a breakout season with Melbourne City, he made the World Cup squad after many impressive performances in the A-League and pre World Cup matches, where he even scored a goal against Hungary.


He is fast, a fantastic dribbler and likes to cut on to his right foot to cross and shoot goals. Everyone is looking forward to what sort of player he will become and could be one of Australia’s all-time greats.

Unfortunately, his chances of appearing in the Asian Cup appear slim after the 19-year old suffered a suspected torn ACL in his Celtic debut.

Other Players
Other players that could be considered include Awer Mabil, John Irendale and Nikita Rukavystsya, who have been a part of the national team set-up in the past year.

Adam Taggart may also be one to watch if he has a big A-League season. Adelaide United winger Craig Goodwin will also be a player to watch, especially after his fantastic man-of-the-match FFA cup final performance.

Martin Boyle, who was apart of the squad to face Kuwait but couldn’t due to passport issues, could also be apart of the squad after four goals, three assists in eight matches this year for Hibernian.

These are just some of the players that could be considered for Asian Cup selection. It will be interesting to see Graham Arnold’s vision and his squad for the Asian Cup.

Equally intriguing will be finding out who the breakout players, surprise packages and shock omissions will be. Hopefully, Arnold leads a squad that can once again lead Australia to victory.