Arnie explains why an A-Leagues favourite missed out & when he could earn Socceroos call-up

Subway Socceroos head coach Graham Arnold explained why Central Coast Mariners star Josh Nisbet was not included in the squad to face Lebanon, while he also discussed the international future of Newcastle Jets striker Apostolos Stamatelopoulos.

Arnold named his 25-player squad for the upcoming 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup qualifiers against Lebanon in Canberra (March 21) and Sydney (March 26) on Thursday, with a trio of Isuzu UTE A-League-based players included.

Perth Glory captain and Golden Boot contender Adam Taggart earned an international re-call after almost two years away, while Melbourne Victory talisman Bruno Fornaroli retained his spot following the AFC Asian Cup and Western Sydney Wanderers star Brandon Borrello returned having recovered from an ankle injury which ruled him out of the tournament in Qatar.

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But there was no room for in-form Mariners midfielder Nisbet, who has been touted for a maiden international call-up thanks to his exploits with the Isuzu UTE A-League champions in the domestic competition and in the AFC Cup.

The 24-year-old has scored in back-to-back games for Central Coast, while he has tallied a league-high seven assists in 2023-24.

“The kid is doing fantastic,” Arnold told reporters when asked about Nisbet. “It’s just at the moment with World Cup qualifiers, more or less bringing in boys that know what needs to happen and what we do.

“We get one training session pretty much… just having boys know what we need to do to win the next two games.”

When pressed as to whether Nisbet and other inexperienced players could be drafted into the squad should the Subway Socceroos secure their spot in the third round of qualifying at the end of this window, Arnold replied: “Yeah, potentially.

“Especially with Bangladesh away and the timing of that game. A lot of players will have their seasons finished early so it’s about picking a squad that’s ready for the Bangladesh game over there.”

There was also no room in the squad for Newcastle star Stamatelopoulos as he continues to challenge for Golden Boot honours.

Stamatelopoulos, like Taggart, has scored 14 goals in the Isuzu UTE A-League this season – just one shy of Fornaroli.

However, Arnold opted for Fornaroli, Taggart, Mitch Duke (Machida Zelvia) and Kusini Yengi (Portsmouth) as his out-and-out striking options, with Borrello, Sam Silvera (Middlesbrough) and John Iredale (Wehen Wiesbaden) also among the forwards.

“Stama, I went and watched him on Saturday night in Perth,” Arnold said.

“He has been impressive. He’s probably one for the future I’ll be looking at for sure.”

As for Taggart, he has not played for the Subway Socceroos since September 2022.

But the 16-time Australia international is back in the squad thanks to his red-hot form in the Isuzu UTE A-League, where he has scored 14 goals including nine in his past 10 appearances.

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“That was the good thing about going live and watching him play, you can see his body is right,” Arnold said of the 30-year-old.

“That’s the whole reason I pretty much I left him out of the World Cup was he was playing in Japan and fighting injuries. He was fighting his own body.

“But you can see that’s all fixed up now. He has a great relationship with (Glory head coach) Alen Stajcic. He is working well over there.

“Being captain of the club and looking at his body language, he is showing really good leadership on the field. If he can get those half chances, he is capable of putting the ball in the back of the net.”