Australia have named a strong squad for their crunch qualifier with Saudi Arabia next week, with four local players and one potential debutant among the 24-man pool.
Gianni Stensness is someone many people outside football circles wouldn’t have heard of, but the 22-year-old may get his first cap after being included in a strong group of players.
Stensness signed a three-year contract with Norwegian club Viking FK after three seasons in the A-League for the Central Coast Mariners and Wellington Phoenix.
With a father from New Zealand, Stensness represented both sides of the Tasman at various junior levels before settling on playing for Australia at senior level.
The Socceroos will play their first match on home soil in 763 days in a massive fixture against Saudi Arabia on November 11 at Western Sydney Stadium.
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In terms of current A-League players, the quartet of Rhyan Grant, Jamie Maclaren, Andrew Nabbout and Mat Leckie have been included.
“With border restrictions in some locations across the nation easing, we’ve been able to welcome some Australian-based players back into the Socceroos’ family this window,” coach Graham Arnold said.
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“Mathew, Jamie and Andrew have all been watching our campaign from afar over the past two months, and they are thrilled with the opportunity to re-join the squad.”
Along with Chris Ikonimidis, Grant was the only A-League player involved in the previous qualifiers against Oman and Japan.
The Sydney FC fullback based himself at countryman Martin Boyle’s SPL club Hibernian in between international call-ups, instead of returning to Australia.
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“The players selected for our upcoming FIFA window are brimming with excitement to return home and to play in front of Australian supporters, as well as their family and friends,” Arnold said.
“The players will get so much energy from playing in front of a strong home crowd at a first-class stadium.”
Tom Rogic, Aaron Mooy and Adam Taggart were all unavailable for selection, but Arnold says that isn’t a concern.
“We have developed good depth in the Socceroos over the past few years and the squad that has been selected is one that we have full belief in to perform strongly for the Australian public,” Arnold said.
Australia are currently in second place after four of the 10 qualification games, three points behind Saudi Arabia, who have taken a perfect 12 points from 12 so far.
A positive result on home soil would do wonders for the rest of Australia’s campaign.
The top-two teams from each of the two groups of six will advance to Qatar 2022, while the third-placed team in each will have to go via the play-off route, as the Socceroos did for the 2018 tournament.