Adelaide United teenager Riley McGree is one of five uncapped players to be included in the Socceroos’ final squad to face Iraq and United Arab Emirates.
International novices McGree, Mustafa Amini, Rhyan Grant, James Jeggo and Danny Vukovic have earned selection in the final 23, which will begin assembling in Iran on Sunday for their World Cup qualifier against Iraq – on neutral ground – on March 23.
Australia coach Ange Postecoglou cut Awer Mabil, Nathan Burns, Craig Goodwin, Chris Ikonomidis, Ryan Edwards, Matt McKay and Alex Gersbach from the initial 30-man squad he announced last week.
“We’ve come up with a good strong squad that has a mix of experience, form and players who are playing regular football,” Postecoglou said in a statement on Tuesday.
“I was pleased with the collective game time the squad got through over the weekend and come into camp playing well.
“We face two important games in five days and it’s good to welcome back some guys who have been out of the squad for different lengths of time for various reasons and I’m confident the group we’ve selected will be ready to hit the ground running.”
McGree, 18, was the clear bolter in Postecoglou’s initial squad but the Socceroos’ boss made it clear last week that the midfielder was on track to survive this week’s trim after impressing in his 15 appearances in all competitions for the Reds this season.
Amini played 90 minutes for AGF in a 1-1 draw in the Danish Superliga over the weekend – the 23-year-old midfielder’s 25th league appearance this term.
Jeggo – who has been part of the Socceroos’ past two squads – was also in action, putting in a full shift for Sturm Graz in the Austrian Bundesliga as his club side notched a second straight win.
Sydney FC duo Grant and Vukovic played 90 minutes as the Sky Blues’ impressive defence kept yet another clean sheet in a 1-0 win over Central Coast Mariners on Friday.
While Postecoglou had warned players lacking regular game-time would be in danger of missing out on this squad, the 51-year-old still retained Inter’s Trent Sainsbury and Bournemouth’s Brad Smith, who have not played club football since the end of October and start of February, respectively.
After playing Iraq in Tehran, Australia will continue their bid for Russia 2018 qualification on March 28 when they face the UAE in Sydney.
Australia squad in full:
Goalkeepers: Mitchell Langerak (Stuttgart), Mat Ryan (Genk), Danny Vukovic (Sydney FC)
Defenders: Aziz Behich (Bursaspor), Milos Degenek (Yokohama), Rhyan Grant (Sydney FC), Trent Sainsbury (Inter), Brad Smith (Bournemouth), Rhys Williams (Perth Glory), Bailey Wright (Bristol City)
Midfielders: Mustafa Amini (AGF), Jackson Irvine (Burton Albion), Mile Jedinak (Aston Villa), James Jeggo (Sturm Graz), Massimo Luongo (QPR), Riley McGree (Adelaide), Mark Milligan (Baniyas), Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield Town)
Forwards: Tim Cahill (Melbourne City), Tomi Juric (FC Luzern), Robbie Kruse (Liaoning Whowin), Mathew Leckie (FC Ingolstadt), James Troisi (Melbourne Victory)