Australia will host Lebanon for the first time in November in a friendly mooted as a final farewell for Socceroos legend Tim Cahill. The striker retired from international football last month after playing at a fourth World Cup but is likely to lace up for the 20 November match at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium.
Cahill’s appearance is not yet set in stone, with FFA chief David Gallop saying negotiations with his management are ongoing. A formal announcement should come next week but if all goes to plan, fans will be able to see Cahill one last time in a Socceroos shirt in his home town.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the fans to thank Timmy for what he’s done for Australian football,” national team coach Graham Arnold said. “It’s still up to David [Gallop] and Timmy and his manager. Everyone has the greatest respect for Timmy.
“When you see footage of the two goals he scored against Japan in Germany, I was on the bench as assistant, to what he did against Syria, two goals to get them past that, he’s had a remarkable career. A career that not many people have. We will do something that he will never forget for sure.”
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Given Cahill’s decision to step away from the national team set up, at age 38, ahead of January’s Asian Cup defence, he will play a limited role in November’s Socceroos camp.
Australia will face South Korea in Brisbane on 17 November before heading south for the date with Lebanon, the world No 79. FFA hope to draw upon Cahill’s popularity, as well as the 165,000-strong community of Sydneysiders with Lebanese heritage to pack the Olympics venue.
“We’ve never played Lebanon in Australia before,” Gallop said. “Lebanese people have a very important place in the Australian community. This will be a wonderful opportunity for those with Lebanese heritage to come out and support the Socceroos or Lebanon in what should be a special occasion.”
Arnold also announced his first training squad and said the new talent coming through the Socceroos gives him goosebumps. The national team will return to Antalya, Turkey – the site of their pre-World Cup training camp – under Arnold’s management for an eight-day training camp next week.
Uncapped players Denis Genreau, Ben Garuccio, Kenneth Dougall, John Iredale and Awer Mabil are among the names that will get the chance to forge international careers under Arnold. The camp comes just four months before Australia prepare to defend the Asian Cup in UAE, and Arnold is confident of doing just that.
“When I look at the squad overall I get goosebumps,” he said. “Last week I was down with the Olyroos in Canberra. I walked out of the camp so excited. We have some very good, flexible players. We go to the Asian Cup expecting to win every game and we go to the World Cup expecting to win games.”
Arnold has restored World Cup hard-luck stories Alex Gersbach, Bailey Wright and Mitchell Langerak to the national set up. The squad of 31 features just two A-League players; Dimi Petratos and Josh Risdon.
There are no games for the Socceroos next week, when Arnold will put a focus on team bonding. “Next week’s camp in Turkey marks the start of a new phase for the Socceroos,” said Arnold. “While we will have numerous field, tactical, and video sessions during the seven days that we are together in Turkey, we will also spend plenty of time off the pitch discussing our individual and team objectives and identity.”
All but five players have been retained from the squad of 23 that represented Australia in Russia. Mathew Leckie, Tom Rogic and Andrew Nabbout have been left out due to injury, Cahill has moved on and left-back James Meredith has been overlooked. Fringe players Alex Susnjar, Mustafa Amini and Apostolos Giannou have also been selected.
Arnold’s first match in charge is likely to be in the Middle East during an international window in October.
Socceroos squad for Turkey training camp
Goalkeepers: Brad Jones, Mitchell Langerak, Mat Ryan, Danny Vukovic. Defenders: Aziz Behich, Milos Degenek, Ben Garuccio, Alex Gersbach, Matthew Jurman, Josh Risdon, Trent Sainsbury, Alex Susnjar, Bailey Wright. Midfielders: Kenneth Dougall, Denis Genreau, Ajdin Hrustic, Jackson Irvine, Mile Jedinak, Massimo Luongo, Mark Milligan, Aaron Mooy. Forwards: Mustafa Amini, Daniel Arzani, Mitchell Duke, Apostolos Giannou, John Iredale, Tom Juric, Robbie Kruse, Awer Mabil, Jamie Maclaren, Dimi Petratos.