Postecoglu names squad as Australia look to seize control of UAE’s World Cup qualifying group

Australia manager Ange Postecoglu has named his squad for next month's 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Saudi Arabia and Japan.
Ange Postecoglu has overseen two straight victories for Australia in their attempt to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Mal Fairclough / AFP
Ange Postecoglu has overseen two straight victories for Australia in their attempt to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Mal Fairclough / AFP

Australia manager Ange Postecoglu has named his squad for next month’s 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Saudi Arabia and Japan as they look to seize control of their group featuring the UAE.

The UAE’s bid to reach just their second World Cup hit a stumbling block earlier this month with a 1-0 defeat to Australia in Abu Dhabi, which followed a stunning 2-1 victory in Japan.

Australia, meanwhile, have begun their campaign in flawless fashion, also winning their opener against Iraq to sit top of Group B.

Saudi Arabia are next up for Australia, in Jeddah on October 6, before Postecoglu and his side return to Melbourne to face Japan on October 11.

Postecoglou has made three changes to the squad, calling up Austrian-based midfielder James Jeggo and Netherlands-based Craig Goodwin, while defender Bailey Wright returns after missing the first two qualifiers through injury.

Jeggo, 24, moved to Sturm Graz this year after stints with Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United in Australia’s A-League.

More from 2018 World Cup qualifying:

• Ali Mabkhout: ‘Confident’ UAE will return to winning ways

• Five takeaways: What we learnt from UAE’s defeat to Australia

• Comment: UAE’s road to Russia hits dent, but dream far from over

“We’ve made a couple of slight tweaks to the squad in line with our mantra of selecting players who are in form and fitness and we would like to have a good look at Craig Goodwin and James Jeggo, who have started their seasons well in Europe,” Postecoglou said.

“Bailey Wright also comes back in after he missed the first two matches through injury and we go to Saudi Arabia and then back to Melbourne with a squad we are comfortable can continue the good start we achieved.”

Saudi Arabia are the only other side on six points from two games — after wins against Thailand and Iraq — so something has to give on October 6.

“These two games come pretty quickly after the two matches we played against Iraq and the UAE and we face similar challenges against tough opposition, but we are confident in our processes and planning,” Postecoglou said.

The UAE next face Thailand at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium on October 6 and victory will keep Mahdi Ali’s side within touching distance of the top two automatic qualifying spots. That is then followed by a trip to Jeddah to face Saudi Arabia on October 11 for what is widely expected to be a vital match in their hopes of qualification.

Despite their opening defeat in Tokyo, Japan are favourites alongside Australia to clinch one of the two qualification spots. It therefore could leave the UAE and Saudi Arabia battling for third, which means a place in a fourth round two-legged playoff against third place in Group A. The winner of that tie then advances to a two-legged playoff against a Concacaf nation to determine who reaches the World Cup in Russia.

Australia squad: Tim Cahill (Melbourne City), Milos Degenek (1860 Munchen), Adam Federici (Bournemouth), Alex Gersbach (Rosenborg), Craig Goodwin (Sparta Rotterdam), Chris Ikonomidis (Aarhus Gymnastikforening), Jackson Irvine (Burton Albion), Mile Jedinak (Aston Villa), James Jeggo (Sturm Graz), Tomi Juric (FC Luzern), Robbie Kruse (Bayer Leverkusen), Mitchell Langerak (Stuttgart), Mathew Leckie (FC Ingolstadt), Massimo Luongo (Queens Park Rangers), Ryan McGowan (Henan Jianye), Mark Milligan (Baniyas), Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield Town), Tommy Rogic (Celtic), Mathew Ryan (Valencia), Trent Sainsbury (Jiangsu Suning), Brad Smith (Bournemouth), Matthew Spiranovic (Hangzhou Greentown), Bailey Wright (Preston North End)

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Published: September 20, 2016 04:00 AM

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