SYDNEY — Skipper Mile Jedinak has been recalled to Australia’s squad for the first time since June to prepare for next month’s World Cup intercontinental playoff against Honduras.
The 33-year-old Jedinak was injured and missed the Asian playoff win over Syria which earned the Socceroos a spot in the last-ditch, home-and-away series against Honduras for a place at next year’s World Cup in Russia.
His return for Aston Villa last weekend in England was enough to earn a spot in the 25-man squad announced by Australia coach Ange Postecoglou on Tuesday.
Mark Milligan and Mathew Leckie, who are suspended for the opening match in San Pedro Sula on Nov. 10, were also included in the squad. The return match will be in Sydney in Nov. 15.
“With two games in five days and extensive travel between the fixtures, every member of our squad will play an important role,” Postecoglou said. “We’ll be looking to get a positive result in San Pedro Sula, before aiming to seal a place at the World Cup in Russia in front of our home fans.”
Tim Cahill, who scored two crucial goals in Australia’s come-from-behind win over Syria in the return leg of the Asian playoff, is again expected to feature heavily. He has been a key part of Australia’s trips to the World Cup in 2006, ’10 and ’14.
“I dearly want this group of players to experience another World Cup and for us as a nation to test ourselves against the best,” Postecoglou said. “We’ll keep forging ahead in the way we play our football and if anything we can be even more aggressive in our approach than we have been.”
Postecoglou has come under increasing pressure as his Asian Cup winning-squad struggled to convert scoring changes into goals and the experimental defensive system conceded at vital times in the last round of Asian qualifying. Australia missed out on an automatic spot at Russia on goal difference to Saudi Arabia despite only losing once in 10 games.
A newspaper report following that series implied Postecoglou was ready to quit after the Honduras series even if Australia qualified for the World Cup. Speculation about his coaching future has only heightened with the coach refusing to comment on anything beyond the playoff with Honduras.
“I’m happy to have that discussion when we qualify,” Postecoglou, who is contracted until the end of the World Cup cycle, told a news conference in Sydney. “If we don’t qualify … my future is absolutely certain.”
The Australian squad will start assembling in Honduras on Nov. 5.
“While the road we’re taking is the long road, the experience and even the two Syria games, have been enormously beneficial for the players.” Postecoglou said. “To get through that, to deal with that kind of pressure … and be able to overcome it has been a positive experience for us.
“You’d hope that in the next two games we get more aggressive and can be more progressive in our game.”
Goalkeepers: Mitchell Langerak, Mat Ryan, Danny Vukovic.
Defenders: Aziz Behich, Milos Degenek, Alex Gersbach, Matthew Jurman, Ryan McGowan, Josh Risdon, Trent Sainsbury, Bailey Wright.
Midfielders: Craig Goodwin, Jackson Irvine, Mile Jedinak, James Jeggo, Massimo Luongo, Mark Milligan, Aaron Mooy, Tom Rogic, James Troisi.
Attackers: Tim Cahill, Tomi Juric, Robbie Kruse, Mathew Leckie, Nikita Rukavytsya.