MELBOURNE, March 14 (Reuters) - Australia coach Ange Postecoglou has dismissed concerns about Tim Cahill’s lack of match fitness and selected the veteran striker in his final 23-man squad for crunch World Cup qualifiers against Iraq and the United Arab Emirates.
The 37-year-old Cahill was overlooked for the qualifier against Thailand in November and has spent little time on the pitch at club level for Melbourne City in the past month but he remains the nation’s go-to man when the pressure is on.
Australia’s disappointing 2-2 draw in Bangkok saw them slip to third behind in Asia’s Group B behind Saudi Arabia and Japan, outside the top two spots that guarantee automatic qualification for next year’s global showpiece in Russia.
The Socceroos will hope to revive their campaign with victory over Iraq in Tehran on March 23 before United Arab Emirates visit in Sydney on March 28, the first of three home matches which round out their qualifying campaign.
Cahill joins a strong squad with captain Mile Jedinak included after shaking off a hamstring complaint and striker Tomi Juric and midfielder Massimo Luongo recalled after missing the Thailand game through injury.
Postecoglou shed seven from the 30-man squad he named last week but has retained Adelaide United’s Riley McGree, an 18-year-old midfielder, among five uncapped players.
Melbourne Victory forward James Troisi and Perth Glory defender Rhys Williams, back in the national frame after three injury-plagued years, also survived the cut.
”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 media release on Tuesday.
“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.” (Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)