The club moves that could seal FIFA World Cup spots for four Caltex Socceroos
Mid-season club moves have helped four players earn Caltex Socceroos re-calls in Bert van Marwijk’s preliminary 32-man squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
After missing van Marwijk’s initial squad for the March friendlies against Norway and Colombia, Jamie Maclaren, Apostolos Giannou, Mitch Langerak and Alex Gersbach have all earned call-ups to the squad in contention to go to Russia.
The four returning stars – along with uncapped Daniel Arzani and Fran Karacic – join the 26 players involved in the March squad that will hope to make the final 23-man squad.
Interestingly, Maclaren, Giannou, Langerak and Gersbach all made a switch of clubs in January to give themselves a chance to get to the FIFA World Cup.
Maclaren has thrived since his loan move from Darmstadt in Germany’s second tier to Scottish Premiership club Hibernian, scoring five times in 13 appearances.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is the selection of striker Giannou, who last played for the Caltex Socceroos back in late 2016.
The 28-year-old left Chinese outfit Guangzhou R&F and moved to AEK Larnaca in Cyprus, where he has scored four times in 14 appearances in league and cup.
Maclaren and Giannou are two of nine attackers named in the squad, with van Marwijk admitting he needs to keep all his options open.
“We went to Scotland to see Maclaren and we went to Cyprus to see Giannou. I want to get as much information as I can get,” van Marwijk said.
“At the moment [Tomi] Juric is injured, I hope it’s not serious but he hasn’t played for the last two weeks.
“Everybody knows the special case of Tim Cahill and now he’s unfortunately suspended for three games.
“Maclaren is a possibility as a centre-forward. With Giannou, we were there and he only played the last 20, 25 minutes also because he was injured.
“Andrew Nabbout I think he can also play as a centre-forward. He can play more positions up front but also there.
“But I cannot choose six strikers (for the 23) but I need two or three.”
At the other end of the pitch, Langerak is back as one of four keepers in the squad alongside Mat Ryan, Brad Jones and Danny Vukovic.
The 29-year-old gloveman has been excellent for Japanese outfit Nagoya Grampus since leaving Levante, playing 13 times since the J-League started in March.
And Gersbach is back in contention for a left-back spot following after his successful loan move from Rosenborg in Norway to French Ligue 2 side Lens.
The 20-year-old has become a consistent member of the starting XI in Lens, featuring in 11 matches for the club.
Gersbach is one of three left-back’s in the squad, along with Turkey-based Aziz Behich and Millwall’s James Meredith.
The 32-man Caltex Socceroos squad will next week be trimmed to 26 before van Marwijk and his staff meet up with players in Turkey for a 20-day training camp.