Adam Taggart.
Striker Adam Taggart's Perth Glory form has him in line for a first Socceroos cap in 18 months. Image by Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS
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Euro clubs hurting Australia’s Olympic hopes: Arnold

George Clarke March 14, 2024

Graham Arnold is growing concerned by European sides pressuring young players to put club before country after Parma defender Alessandro Circati was left out of the Socceroos squad and looking increasingly likely to miss crunch Olympic qualifiers. 

Rated as a future star of the Socceroos, Circati was a notable absentee from Thursday’s squad announcement for World Cup qualifiers against Lebanon in Parramatta on March 21 and Canberra on March 26.

It comes as the 20-year-old’s club commitments also look set to rule him out of next month’s U23 Asian Cup, which falls outside the FIFA window and where a spot at the Olympic Games in Paris is up for grabs.

Parma are chasing promotion to Serie A and Arnold had hoped by not calling up the one-cap international for January’s Asian Cup, his club side would play ball.

But two months down the track that appears less likely.

“I think a lot of people need to understand the pressure the players get put under from their clubs overseas,” Arnold said on Thursday.

Ajdin Hrustic and Joey Veerman.
 Ajdin Hrustic (L) fights for the ball in a recent Eredivisie match against PSV Eindhoven. Image by EPA PHOTO 

“To play for Australia is a lot, Alessandro and even Cristian Volpato it’s exactly the same, they have to focus on their club careers.”

The irony is that Olympic tournaments have often been a springboard for emerging players to secure lucrative moves elsewhere. 

Asked if he expected Circati to be released for next month’s U23 Asian Cup, Arnold said: “I’d be doubtful about that.

“(Olyroos coach) Tony Vidmar is getting quite a number of overseas-based clubs refusing to release players in April so it’ll be predominantly players from the A-League.” 

Arnold, too, has had to look to the home front to supplement his senior squad in their first matches since their quarter-final exit at the Asian Cup.

Perth striker Adam Taggart and Western Sydney forward Brandon Borrello are both back in the squad for two games which could secure Australia’s passage to the final round of World Cup qualification. 

Creative midfielder Adjin Hrustic is also back in the mix, but there is no place for Central Coast Mariners playmaker Josh Nisbet, who has arguably been the form Australian player in the competition this year. 

“He (Nisbet) has been doing fantastic but at the moment with World Cup qualifiers (we are) bringing boys that know what needs to happen,” Arnold said. 

“We get one training session and it’s about having boys who know what we need to do in these two games.” 

The only concern for Arnold is the fitness of rightback Lewis Miller, who failed to finish Hibernian’s 2-2 draw with Ross County on Thursday morning (AEDT) due to a hamstring issue. 

“He called me straight from the dressing room this morning, it’s too early to rule him out,” Arnold said. 

“He’s going to have scans and get checked on and then we’ll deal with that in the next couple of days.” 

SOCCEROOS SQUAD:

Goalkeepers: Mat Ryan (capt), Joe Gauci, Tom Glover

Defenders: Nathaniel Atkinson, Jordy Bos, Cameron Burgess, Thomas Deng, Gethin Jones, Lewis Miller, Kye Rowles, Harry Souttar

Midfielders: Keanu Baccus, Ajdin Hrustic, Jackson Irvine, Riley McGree, Connor Metcalfe, Patrick Yazbek

Forwards: Brandon Borrello, Mitchell Duke, Bruno Fornaroli, Craig Goodwin, John Iredale, Sam Silvera, Adam Taggart, Kusini Yengi.