Australia coach Graham Arnold kept the World Cup door open Wednesday for Tom Rogic despite leaving the influential midfielder out of an enlarged squad for games against New Zealand.
There was a first call-up however for 17-year-old Garang Kuol, who impressed when an A-League All-Stars team played Xavi’s Barcelona this year.
Former Celtic star Rogic, 29, withdrew just before Australia’s crunch World Cup qualifiers in May, citing personal reasons.
He is not in a 31-man squad for games against New Zealand in Brisbane on September 22 and Auckland three days later, which Arnold says is a last chance for players to claim a spot for the World Cup in Qatar in November.
Arnold said Rogic was overlooked because of a lack of recent game-time, but left the door open after he signed for West Bromwich Albion in the English Championship this week.
“He’s a player that’s top quality. He brings a lot to the national team,” Arnold told reporters of Rogic, who has 53 caps for the Socceroos.
“At this moment he hasn’t been selected for New Zealand because he hasn’t kicked the ball in a game since May.
“It’s all about Tommy getting out there and working hard and making sure he’s in the best form of his life,” he added. “We need our best players.”
Arnold included seven debutants in a squad spearheaded by Celtic midfielder Aaron Mooy. The new faces include teenage attacker Kuol.
“This camp is the last opportunity we will have to work with the squad ahead of the World Cup tournament and all players are competing for a spot in the final squad, which will be announced in early November,” said Arnold.
“The incentive couldn’t be bigger,” he added.
“There’s a place at the World Cup at stake and if you’re working hard and playing well then there’s an opportunity for you to represent your country on the biggest stage.”
Mooy leads a seven-strong contingent competing in the Scottish Premiership, including striker Martin Boyle and defender Nathaniel Atkinson. FC Copenhagen goalkeeper Maty Ryan was named captain.
Australia squad: Nathaniel Atkinson (Hearts/SCO), Keanu Baccus (St Mirren/SCO), Aziz Behich (Dundee United/SCO), Martin Boyle (Hibernian/SCO), Jason Cummins (Central Coast Mariners/AUS), Harrison Delbridge (Incheon United/KOR), Milos Degenek (Columbus Crew/USA), Thomas Deng (Albirex Niigata/JPN), Cameron Devlin (Hearts/SCO), Mitchell Duke (Fagiano Okayama/JPN) Tyrese Francois (Gorica/CRO), Denis Genreau (Toulouse/FRA), Ajdin Hrustic (Hellas Verona/ITA), Jackson Irvine (St. Pauli/GER), Fran Karacic (Brescia Calcio/ITA), Joel King (Odense Boldklub/DEN), Garang Kuol (Central Coast Mariners/AUS), Mitch Langerak (Nagoya Grampus/JPN), Mathew Leckie (Melbourne City/AUS), Awer Mabil (Cadiz/ESP), Jamie Maclaren (Melbourne City/AUS), Riley Mcgree (Middlesbrough/ENG), Connor Metcalfe (St Pauli/GER), Aaron Mooy (Celtic/SCO), Andrew Redmayne (Sydney FC/AUS), Mathew Ryan (FC Copenhagen/DEN), Trent Sainsbury (Al-Wakrah/QAT), Ryan Strain (St Mirren/SCO), Adam Taggart (Cerezo Osaka/JPN), Marco Tilio (Melbourne City/AUS), Bailey Wright (Sunderland/ENG)