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Australia names 29-man squad for final World Cup qualifiers

SYDNEY (AFP) – Ajdin Hrustic, fresh from winning the Europa League with Eintracht Frankfurt, and ex-Celtic star Tom Rogic spearhead Australia’s squad named yesterday for a crunch World Cup playoff against the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The Socceroos’ bid to directly make a fifth straight World Cup ended with defeats to Japan and Saudi Arabia in March.

It thrust them into an Asian qualifying playoff against the UAE in Doha on June 7, with the winner then facing Peru a week later to book their spot at the finals in Qatar this year.

Attacking midfielder Hrustic heads into camp on the back of his recent Europa League triumph, helping Frankfurt beat Rangers in a penalty shootout, while Rogic was a key part of the Celtic side that won the Scottish league title. Coach Graham Arnold named nine players who were not involved in the Japan and Saudi games when the squad was hit hard by Covid withdrawals and injuries.

There are returns for Adelaide winger Craig Goodwin, Melbourne City forward Mathew Leckie and Central Coast defender Kye Rowles along with striker Adam Taggart, playmaker Aaron Mooy, Rogic and Jackson Irvine.

Arnold’s strikeforce was also boosted by the return of the A-League golden boot winner Jamie Maclaren who missed the Saudi game in March to get married.

“Our qualification journey for this year’s World Cup has been challenging, however the bigger the challenge, the greater the reward,” said Arnold, whose job is on the line.