Revealed: Australia’s 26-man World Cup squad, including seven A-Leagues stars

A year ago Garang Kuol was playing in the second division of Victoria’s NPL, while Jason Cummings was on the bench for the worst team in the Scottish Premier League – now they’re heading for the World Cup.

The Mariners duo are the headline inclusions in Graham Arnold’s 26-man Socceroos squad to travel to Qatar, forcing their way into selection on the back of consistently eye-catching performances in the Isuzu UTE A-League since the turn of the year.

In a squad where some inclusions – and exclusions – have immediately sparked furious debate, Arnold has taken a significant gamble by including both Harry Souttar and Kye Rowles in the wake of injuries that threatened their particupation in Qatar.

But there is no place for Tom Rogic, the playmaker who was long seen as Australia’s most creative influence but has hardly played for West Brom since quitting Celtic last season.

Australia’s squad:
Mat Ryan (capt), Nathaniel Atkinson, Keanu Baccus, Aziz Behich, Martin Boyle, Jason Cummings, Milos Degenek, Thomas Deng, Cameron Devlin, Mitchell Duke, Craig Goodwin, Ajdin Hrustic, Jackson Irvine, Fran Karacic, Joel King, Garang Kuol, Mathew Leckie, Awer Mabil, Jamie Maclaren, Riley McGree, Aaron Mooy, Andrew Redmayne, Kye Rowles, Harry Souttar, Danny Vukovic, Bailey Wright.

Graham Arnold (c) has selected Garang Kuol and Jason Cummings.

Rogic has struggled for any meaningful game time at West Brom since signing less than two months ago, while Souttar had been in a race to recover from an ACL injury suffered against Saudi Arabia almost exactly a year ago. Rowles, who showed wonderful maturity in the June play-offs with UAE and Peru, had likewise been desperately trying to prove his fitness after breaking his foot six weeks ago.

The most striking omission is Japan-based goalkeeper Mitch Langerak, in career-best form and who reversed his international retirement to be called into the Socceroos squad for September’s friendlies with New Zealand.

Langerak was one of the few players to get no playing time in either game and has now bizarrely been jettisoned as quickly as he was recalled in favour of the veteran Danny Vukovic.

KEEPUP is your official home for the A-Leagues and home of football for Australians. Ahead of the World Cup in Qatar, download the KEEPUP app. Google Store: Apple Store:

Another notable absentee is Trent Sainsbury, Arnold’s own son in law, who’s move to the Qatari Premier League in June failed to address a persistent deterioration in performance for the national team – reaching a nadir against New Zealand.

The core of the squad is a mix of old hands who Arnold has consistently turned to – from captain Mat Ryan and midfielders Aaron Mooy and Jackson Irvine to strikers Mitch Duke and Jamie Maclaren – and those he has introduced during the qualifying campaign, including Martin Boyle, Ajdin Hrustic and Nathanial Atkinson.

There are seven players from the A-Leagues, equalling the record for Australia at a World Cup, set in 2014 in Brazil, with Sydney FC goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne included after his penalty-saving heroics in the play-off with Peru. Central Coast’s trio of Vukovic, Cummings and Kuol is the most that has been ever provided by an A-Leagues club to a Socceroos World Cup squad. 

But there is no fairytale comeback for Daniel Arzani, four years after his startling ascent from the A-Leagues to Bert van Marwijk’s World Cup squad for Russia aged 18, while Melbourne City’s young creative figure Marco Tilio also misses out.