JETS player of the year Dimi Petratos’ dreams of playing at a World Cup are almost a reality after the versatile attacker was named in a 26-man Socceroos squad for a training camp in Turkey starting this weekend.
Petratos and former Jets teammate Andrew Nabbout (Urawa Red Diamonds) made their national team debuts against Noway in March.
They impressed coach Bert van Marwijk with their versatility and technical ability and will get another chance to press their claims for a ticket to Russia during an intense two-week camp which includes a friendly against the Czech Republic in Vienna on June 1.
The squad on June 3 will be trimmed to the final 23 for Russia, where Australia have been drawn alongside France, Denmark and Peru.
“I am sure that in training in Antalya, and in our match against the Czech Republic, we will see players pushing to go to a higher level as they compete for a place in the final squad,” van Marwijk said.
Defender Bailey Wright and in-form Hibernian hit man Jamie Maclaren were the biggest names to miss selection.
Maclaren and Wright learned they had suffered the cruellest of cuts last week, with Tuesday’s public announcement confirming their bad news.
Van Marwijk has retained bolters Daniel Arzani, Fran Karacic and Petratos along with veteran striker Tim Cahill.
The other four players culled from the preliminary squad were Alex Gersbach, Apostolos Giannou, Mitchell Langerak, and Aleksandar Susnjar.
Wright and Maclaren miss out despite compelling cases for their inclusion.
For Maclaren, it is a case of a scoring spree coming too late.
The 24-year-old was the highest scoring Australian for two straight A-League seasons in his Brisbane Roar days, but was surplus to requirements at German club Darmstadt after earning a breakthrough move last year.
A mid-season loan switch to the Scottish Premiership allowed him to regain his scoring touch, as shown by a hat-trick against Rangers on Sunday.
But van Marwijjk has opted for a strike force of Cahill, Tomi Juric and Nabbout, who impressed the Dutchman during March’s friendlies against Norway and Colombia.
The dependable Wright, who was a regular member of Ange Postecoglou’s squads, can also feel hard done by.
The Bristol City captain played in 12 of Australia’s 22 qualifiers, including both play-off legs against Honduras.
But having done the hard grind, he has been overlooked in favour of more mobile options after struggling badly when employed as a right-back in the 4-1 loss to Norway in Oslo.
Van Marwijk admitted the decisions were not easy.
“It is always a challenging task to reduce a squad, however this is the nature of professional sport at the highest level,” he said.
“Overall, I believe we have named a strong and ambitious squad.”
Arzani, Petratos, Josh Risdon, Josh Brillante and James Troisi are the only A-League players to be included.
But for every hard luck tale there is a feel-good story.
Danny Vukovic can look forward to a first World Cup at the age of 33, while 36-year-old Brad Jones will also attend after pulling out of the 2010 tournament after his son was diagnosed with leukaemia.
Australia’s last pre-tournament hit-out will be against Hungary in Budapest on June 9.
Should they make the final cut, Cahill and fellow veteran Mark Milligan are in line to attend their fourth World Cup – with Cahill scoring at the previous three.
SOCCEROOS 26-MAN EXTENDED WORLD CUP SQUAD
* Goalkeepers: Brad Jones, Mat Ryan, Danny Vukovic
* Defenders: Aziz Behich, Josh Brillante, Milos Degenek, Fran Karacic, Matt Jurman, James Meredith, Mark Milligan, Josh Risdon, Trent Sainsbury
* Midfielders: Jackson Irvine, Mile Jedinak, Massimo Luongo, Aaron Mooy, Dimitri Petratos, Tom Rogic, James Troisi
* Forwards: Daniel Arzani, Tim Cahill, Tomi Juric, Robbie Kruse, Mat Leckie, Andrew Nabbout, Nikita Rukavytsya