MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak will miss the last two World Cup qualifiers against Japan and Thailand in a blow for Australia’s hopes of booking their tickets to the finals in Russia next year.
The Aston Villa midfielder, who has been battling a groin injury since April, ruled himself out of contention for next Thursday’s crunch match in Japan and the home match against the Thais in Melbourne on Sept. 5.
“We wanted to give him every chance. He was very keen to be a part of it but speaking to him last night, he’s probably not going to get in that game that he needs to see how he feels,” coach Ange Postecoglou said after naming the 23-man squad on Wednesday.
“Obviously with it being a fairly long trip and with his long absence from gametime, probably he felt he wasn’t right and from that perspective, ruled himself out.”
Even though Jedinak has been the rock at the heart of Australia’s midfield for the last few years, Postecoglou was confident he had enough options in his squad to fill the void.
At the Confederations Cup, which Jedinak also missed, Postecoglou mainly used experienced defensive midfielder Mark Milligan to provide cover for the more attack-minded Aaron Mooy and Massimo Luongo.
“We’ve kind of made sure we’ve got a squad of players who can fill in when needed and we certainly have enough depth in that area to cover his absence,” Postecoglou said.
Key central defender Trent Sainsbury was included despite not having played since picking up a groin injury in Australia’s final match at the Confederations Cup against Chile in June.
The coach named a seasoned playing group led by 100-cap forward Tim Cahill with winger Awer Mabil and goalkeeper Danny Vukovic the only players yet to represent their country.
With the A-League currently in the off-season, Postecoglou was pleased that most of his 16 Europe-based players were playing regularly.
“Most of them are getting regular gametime and not just playing but playing well, which is important,” he added.
Australia are third in Group B of Asian qualifying, a point behind leaders Japan and level with second-placed Saudi Arabia with two rounds remaining.
The top two secure automatic berths to Russia, with the third-placed side needing to win two playoffs to advance.
Goalkeepers: Mitchell Langerak, Mathew Ryan, Daniel Vukovic
Defenders: Milos Degenek, Alex Gersbach, Ryan McGowan, Trent Sainsbury, Brad Smith, Matthew Spiranovic, Bailey Wright.
Midfielders: Mustafa Amini, Jackson Irvine, Massimo Luongo, Mark Milligan, Aaron Mooy, Tom Rogic, James Troisi.
Forwards: Tim Cahill, Tomi Juric, Robbie Kruse, Mathew Leckie, Awer Mabil, Jamie Maclaren.
Reporting by Ian Ransom and Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Rory Carroll / Ian Ransom