Wedding couldn’t wait anymore: Maclaren

Socceroos striker Jamie Maclaren says he had no option but to make the tough call to miss the crucial World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia.

Maclaren will be available for Thursday’s must-win game against Japan in Sydney but will not travel to Jeddah for next week’s clash with the Green Falcons — a match which could well determine if the Socceroos qualify directly for this year’s tournament in Qatar or face a treacherous play-off route to the finals.

The complicating factor is his looming wedding to partner Iva Arapovic, an event the pair have repeatedly had to postpone during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve had a bit on my mind since 2020 when I was trying to marry my partner. A lot has happened,” Maclaren told Sky Sports Radio’s Big Sports Breakfast.

“Obviously setbacks have happened. Everyone’s been through this whole COVID period for the last two years and the unpredictability of it is difficult.

“This date was chosen well over a year ago and the phone call to the boss (Socceroos coach Graham Arnold) was a hard one but at the same time I’ve got no choice.

“I can’t change the date and the venue hold the money and at the same time my partner has sacrificed a lot as well.

“It’s a tough position to be in but I’m here focused, ready for the Japan game.”

Maclaren’s absence for the Saudi game is a further setback for Graham Arnold’s plans with several key players either unavailable or under an injury cloud including Aaron Mooy, Riley McGree, Adam Taggart, Tom Rogic, Jackson Irvine and Mathew Leckie.

Australia sit third in Group B in the third stage of Asian qualifying, three points behind second-placed Japan with just the two matches to play.

Only the top two teams qualify automatically for Qatar, with the third-placed nation to face the third-place finisher in Group A — currently the United Arab Emirates — in a playoff in June.

The winner of that match will then face the fifth-placed finisher from South American qualifying for a place at the finals.

“The boys that are coming in are top players as well,” Maclaren said.

“They’re there for a reason.

“Thursday night can’t come around quick enough.

“We’ve got a great squad and a lot of guys who can change the game in the heat of the moment.

“Really looking forward to Thursday, it’s going to be a cracker.”