Rotation on cards as Socceroos seek next World Cup step

Alex Mitchell |

Australian coach Graham Arnold (second right) has flagged changes to the Socceroos line-up.
Australian coach Graham Arnold (second right) has flagged changes to the Socceroos line-up.

Graham Arnold will unleash about five fresh faces for Australia’s clash with Lebanon, as the Socceroos look to take a meaningful step towards FIFA World Cup qualification.

Jordy Bos (knee), Riley McGree (foot) and Keanu Baccus (suspended) are all forced outs, and Arnold hinted there would be more rotation calls made for Tuesday night’s Canberra contest.

Australia ground out a 2-0 win against Lebanon in Sydney last Thursday and would progress to the final round of World Cup qualification with another victory.

Patrick Yazbek (centre)
Patrick Yazbek (centre) has been described as a “90 per cent” chance of playing against Lebanon. (James Gourley/AAP PHOTOS)

Sydney FC left back Joel King would seem a likely starter after being rushed into the squad, while Arnold said 21-year-old Viking FK midfielder Patrick Yazbek was a “90 per cent” chance of getting minutes.

But while he’ll switch the personnel, the Socceroos boss demanded the output stays the same after Australia leap-frogged Korea as the third-ranked Asian side.

They would avoid the top-two ranked sides – Japan and Iran – in the final phase of World Cup qualifying if they maintain that spot.

“It’s a motivational goal I’m driving to the players … in the next three games (if) we stay in pot one it helps our World Cup draw enormously,” Arnold said.

“That was probably the main message I was driving at the Asian Cup and probably why that result there hurt.

“It looks like there will be probably four to five fresh (pairs of) legs starting.

“Obviously if we win this game we get through, so it’s important we have the focus and the mentality, and most of all the energy in front of the full house to put on a great performance.”

Even if Australia secure progression on Tuesday night, Arnold hinted he would pick a full-strength side for June’s potential dead-rubbers against Bangladesh and Palestine to try to protect their ranking.

The coach was quizzed about picking six strikers in his squad for the Lebanon matches, with the nation’s attacking options misfiring recently and leaving the goals to others.

Keanu Baccus (left) and Kye Rowles
Keanu Baccus (left) and Kye Rowles scored in the first match against Lebanon in Sydney. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

Centre midfielder Baccus and defender Kye Rowles found the net in the win in Sydney.

“It’s down to everyone to score as well,” Arnold said.

“I’ve outlined the future (looking towards) 2025 and 2026, and some older players might not make that and I’ve got to have a Plan B.

“Plan B is making sure we’ve got some young ones as well to learn from the senior ones. 

“But now the main thing is the boys go out there tomorrow night and put in a great performance.

“Looking back at the review of the game, there were some sloppy moments from us.

“We’ve addressed the boys about that individually … no sloppy moments, and tidying that up and putting in a more polished performance.”