The Socceroos will return home for two matches against Ecuador later this month – the Australian men’s team’s first appearance Down Under since it left for last year’s World Cup in Qatar.
Football Australia on Thursday announced the Socceroos will play Ecuador in Sydney on March 24 and Melbourne on March 28.
Coach Graham Arnold has said selection for next year’s Asian Cup is in the mix for a number of players as he attempts to convince a several dual-eligible players to choose Australia.
The Socceroos, who mainly draw on players based abroad, won two group games for the first time at the World Cup before being knocked out by eventual winners Argentina in the round of 16.
Arnold said his priority is next January’s Asian Cup, where Australia will be considered among the front-runners.
“I said right at the start of my campaign in 2018 — and I got laughed at — that we will be the greatest Socceroos team in history,” Arnold said.
“That’s going to be the main goal again. It’s about achieving more than what we did in Qatar and starting again.” Ajdin Hrustic, Mathew Leckie and Martin Boyle are unlikely to feature in the Ecuador matches because of injuries.
Arnold has said he will again be looking to add international players after successfully convincing Boyle, Harry Souttar and Jason Cummings to choose Australia over Scotland.
Australian team staff have been in contact with a list of players with dual nationality, headlined by Cristian Volpato. The Roma player, who was born in Sydney, was offered a chance to go to the World Cup but chose not to as he weighed up declaring for Italy.
Parma defender Alessandro Circati, Manchester City playmaker Alex Robertson and Huddersfield goalkeeper Nicholas Bilokapic also have multiple representative options.
Circati was born in Italy but has lived in Australia since childhood and has dual citizenship. Robertson was born in Scotland but is eligible to represent Australia through his father, Scotland through birth, Peru through his mother, and England on residency. He has represented Australia and England at youth international level.
Bilokapic was born in Australia but has Croatian ancestry.
“I think we will eventually get them across the line,” Arnold said. “It’s about me communicating with those kids and making sure that they are making those decisions for the right reasons.
“They’ve obviously got to speak to their families to make sure that when they put on that Australian shirt, it matches (what’s in) their heart.”
Meanwhile, 37-year-old goalkeeper Daniel Vukovic has announced his retirement. He played four internationals for Australia and was on the Socceroos squads for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments.