Graham Arnold has named injured midfielder Aaron Mooy in his 23-man Socceroos squad for the Asian Cup, hoping his star midfielder can be fit for next month’s tournament.
Three A-League players – Josh Risdon, Chris Ikonomidis and Rhyan Grant – will travel to the United Arab Emirates, but long-term striker Tomi Juric has been overlooked as Australia seek to retain the trophy they won on home soil in 2015.
Juric, 27, has struggled for goals at club side Luzern and is the biggest name to miss out.
In his place, Arnold has put his faith in a pacy forward line featuring Mat Leckie, Jamie Maclaren and veteran Robbie Kruse.
“The need for speed is up front,” he said. “We’ve got goalscorers everywhere … it’s an exciting attacking team.”
“If you look right across the front line there’s eight players that can make a difference.”
Mooy was ruled out last week by club Huddersfield Town after suffering a knee injury on English Premier League duty.
Arnold said he’d sent Socceroos medicos to assess the knee at the 28-year-old’s request, giving his star man every chance to participate in the tournament.
“Aaron wants to go to the Asian Cup, he’s asked for the second opinion,” he said. “He wants a specialist over there. He believes he’ll be ready and so do we.”
Arnold said he had a clutch of players on standby should Mooy not come up, or if others were injured before their tournament opener against Jordan on January 6.
Players will spend Christmas with their families and in many cases play in club matches on Boxing Day before uniting in UAE.
This is the first tournament squad in a generation not to feature veterans Tim Cahill or Mile Jedinak but Arnold said the quality of the group made him confident of repeating their 2015 effort.
“I expect to go into every game expecting to win every game,” he said.
“We have seven games and I expect to win every game.”
Socceroos Asian Cup squad
Goalkeepers: Mat Ryan, Danny Vukovic, Mitch Langerak
Defence: Mark Milligan (c), Aziz Behich, Milos Degenek, Alex Gersbach, Rhyan Grant, Matt Jurman, Josh Risdon, Trent Sainsbury
Midfield: Mustafa Amini, Jackson Irvine, Massimo Luongo, Aaron Mooy, Tom Rogic
Forwards: Martin Boyle, Chris Ikonomidis, Robbie Kruse, Mathew Leckie, Awer Mabil, Jamie Maclaren, Andrew Nabbout