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Fornaroli headlines Socceroos squad shocks

Veteran striker Bruno Fornaroli’s win-at-all-costs mentality is exactly what Socceroos coach Graham Arnold wants in his players for the crucial World Cup qualifiers against Japan and Saudi Arabia.

The 34-year-old Uruguay-born forward is one of five uncapped players named in Arnold’s extended 27-man squad after recently being granted Australian citizenship.

With Adam Taggart injured and Jamie Maclaren to be absent for the Saudi Arabia match due to his impending wedding, Arnold has opted for the Perth Glory forward for the must-win fixtures.

“If you look at what Bruno Fornaroli’s done for Australian football as a foreigner over the last, however long he’s been her, seven-eight years, he’s always been consistently one of the best strikers in the league,” Arnold said.

“With his goalscoring ratio of a goal every two games, he brings great quality but on top of that, he brings a South American mentality and that is fight ’til you drop.

“He brings experience that because of that, these two games will not affect him at all.”

With Aaron Mooy unavailable after being diagnosed with COVID-19 and Riley McGree (calf) injured, Fornaroli isn’t the only newcomer to the Socceroos squad.

In-form Melbourne Victory forward Nicholas D’Agostino has earned his first call-up after scoring five goals in his past three matches, including a double in a 4-3 extra-time Asian Champions League loss to Japan’s Vissel Kobe on Tuesday.

Fellow Olyroos representative Nathaniel Atkinson, former New Zealand youth international Gianni Stensness and Central Coast defender Kye Rowles are the other potential debutants.

There’s recalls for French-based Denis Genreau and winger Awer Mabil, after his impressive start to a loan move in Turkey.

Arnold said he’s confident the lack of international experience in those players will not matter if given the chance to feature despite the importance of both fixtures.

Third-placed Australia have to win both matches against second-placed Japan and group leaders Saudi Arabia to have any real hope of qualifying automatically for this year’s World Cup in Qatar.

Anything less is likely to send Australia into a treacherous play-off route to the finals, firstly against the third-placed nation from the other Asian qualifying group and then the fifth-ranked South American nation.

“That’s probably the belief that I have in these kids because I had them with the Olympic team,” Arnold said.

“If you can beat Argentina and play against Argentina the way those boys played them, they can do it at any level.

“I have no issues at all with any of those kids stepping up because I know they’ll bring great energy and what they will bring is aggression and that’s what I expect for these two games.”

Arnold has selected experienced forward Mathew Leckie but admits the Melbourne City star is a “40-60” prospect of playing having not featured in the A-League Men since limping off with a groin injury in a 2-2 draw with the Glory on March 2.

If Australia do beat Japan next Thursday at Stadium Australia, it will be the first time since 2009 the Socceroos have defeated their Asian rivals.

Socceroos squad: Nathaniel Atkinson, Aziz Behich, Martin Boyle, Nicholas D’Agostino, Milos Degenek, Mitchell Duke, Bruno Fornaroli, Denis Genreau, Craig Goodwin, Rhyan Grant, Ajdin Hrustic, Jackson Irvine, James Jeggo, Fran Karacic, Joel King, Mathew Leckie, Awer Mabil, Jamie Maclaren, Connor Metcalfe, Andrew Redmayne, Tom Rogic, Kye Rowles, Mat Ryan, Trent Sainsbury, Gianni Stensness, Marco Tilio, Danny Vukovic.

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