MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia coach Ange Postecoglou has brought striker Nikita Rukavytsya back into the national fold in a 30-man squad for next month’s 2018 World Cup playoff against Syria.
The Ukraine-born 30-year-old last played for the Socceroos in 2014 and scored only one goal in his 13 internationals but has been in solid form for Israeli club Maccabi Haifa.
Australia failed to qualify automatically for next year’s finals in Russia and will play Syria on Oct. 5 in the Malaysian city of Malacca before hosting the return leg in Sydney on Oct. 10. The winner of the playoff will face the fourth-placed side from the North and Central America region for a place in Russia.
Postecoglou has also named regular captain Mile Jedinak, who missed key qualifiers against Japan and Thailand and the Confederations Cup due to a long-term groin injury, along with Europe-based Aziz Behich, Mark Birighitti, Craig Goodwin and James Jeggo.
South Korea-based Matthew Jurman and fellow defender Josh Risdon, from A-League club Western Sydney Wanderers, have also been included in the squad, which will be trimmed to 23 next week.
“The players that we have selected for these crucial matches all have the benefit of several club matches under their belts over the past few weeks, and I am confident whichever 23 players we settle on will be able to do the job next month,” Postecoglou said in a media release.
Goalkeepers: Mat Ryan, Mitch Langerak, Danny Vukovic, Mark Birighitti
Defenders: Aziz Behich, Milos Degenek, Alex Gersbach, Mathew Jurman, Ryan McGowan, Josh Risdon, Trent Sainsbury, Brad Smith, Bailey Wright
Midfielders: Mustafa Amini, Craig Goodwin, Jackson Irvine, Mile Jedinak, James Jeggo, Robbie Kruse, Mathew Leckie, Massimo Luongo, Awer Mabil, Mark Milligan, Aaron Mooy, Tom Rogic, James Troisi
Forwards: Tim Cahill, Tomi Juric, Jamie Maclaren, Nikita Rukavytsya
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford