Four Isuzu UTE A-League stars called up by Socceroos as road to World Cup begins

Joe Gauci's stunning saves for Adelaide v Melbourne Victory have helped earn him a Socceroos recall.

Squad for start of 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup trail includes Maclaren, Behich, Gauci and Borrello to face Bangladesh and Palestine.

Four Isuzu UTE A-League stars have been called up for the Socceroos’ World Cup trail, with head coach Graham Arnold unveiling the squad to start the journey for a place at the 2026 tournament in the USA, Canada and Mexico.

Melbourne City striker Jamie Maclaren is recalled and will do battle with Western Sydney’s Brandon Borrello, Mitch Duke and former Wanderers and Adelaide forward Kusini Yengi to lead the line against Bangladesh in Melbourne on Thursday night.

Maclaren’s club mate, Aziz Behich, keeps his spot while Adelaide goalkeeper Joe Gauci is recalled as understudy to captain Mat Ryan.

Australia will kick off their qualifying campaign next week against Bangladesh and Palestine with a squad almost two-thirds different to the one that performed so magnificently in Qatar almost exactly a year ago.

After a year of experimentation from Arnold  – and thanks also to an injury to Riley McGree – 14 of the 23-man squad making the trip to Melbourne early next week are new faces. What doesn’t change, Arnold made clear, is the level of expectation engendered by the last World Cup, as he looks ahead to the 2026 iteration in the US, Canada and Mexico..

Portsmouth striker Yengi, who would have been called up in September to face Mexico but for injury, is selected on the back of five goals in eight games in League One since leaving Western Sydney in the off-season.

Ipswich Town duo Massimo Luongo and Cameron Burgess keep their places, while Duke heads into camp buoyed by winning promotion from J2 to the J1 League with his Japanese club Machida Zelvia. Captain Mat Ryan enters on the back of a rich vein of club form, having recorded eight clean sheets in 17 appearances across all club competitions this season.

The Socceroos will face Bangladesh on Thursday at AAMI Park, before travelling to Kuwait as a neutral venue to take on Palestine on November 21.

In what should be a relatively straight-forward exercise, coming first or second in a group will that also includes Lebanon will not just send the Socceroos into the next round of qualifying, but secure them a place at the 2027 Asian Cup.

It presents a very different type of challenge to facing the likes of Argentina, Mexico and England over the past year, with Arnold keen for his players to show the sense of self-belief many have spoken of feeling since reaching the second round in Qatar.

“We’ve had the opportunity to test ourselves against some of world football’s best in the last six months, and our performances have shown just how effective we can be, learning a lot along the way, ” Arnold said.

“It was a chance to grow as a group, providing opportunities to younger players in preparation for the start of the 2026 World Cup qualification cycle.

“Those performances have not only shown what we’re capable of, but reinforced a strong belief within this group as we begin an extremely important period.

‘It’s important that we build and maintain a momentum that will see us be successful throughout this campaign and beyond.

“We’re all really looking forward to playing in front of a home crowd, the connection we have with our fans and the energy and support they bring is a huge driver for us — I know the players can’t wait.”

Socceroos v Bangladesh

Thursday, 16 November 2023, AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 8.OOpm AEDT
Tickets: via Ticketek
Broadcast: Network 10 and Paramount+

Palestine v Socceroos

Tuesday, 21 November 2023, Jaber Al-Ahmed International Stadium, Kuwait
Kick-off: TBC
Broadcast: Network 10 and Paramount+