Socceroos defender Brad Smith contracts coronavirus, Covid-19, forced out of Australia’s World Cup qualifiers squad


A case of coronavirus has forced Socceroos defender Brad Smith out of the squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Oman and Japan.

Socceroos defender Brad Smith has been forced out of Australia’s squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Oman and Japan after contracting Covid-19.

Smith, a former Liverpool left-back who now plies his trade in America’s Major Soccer League for the Seattle Sounders, was set to be part of the Socceroos squad for Friday morning’s match against Oman in Doha, and Tuesday week’s clash in Saitama against Japan.

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However, national coach Graham Arnold revealed on Saturday that an asymptomatic Smith was in isolation in the United States after falling victim to Covid-19.

His absence means the Socceroos have just one specialist left back – Turkey-based Aziz Behich – in their 25-man squad.

As reported on Friday, the squad includes just two A-League players – Sydney FC defender Ryhan Grant and recent Melbourne Victory signing Chris Ikononmidis.

“We are continuing to discuss quarantine options with government for national team players and staff who return from abroad after representing Australia,” Arnold said.

“As coach, I hope that these exchanges progress positively so that we can consider the selection of more representatives from the A-League for future squads.”

Italy-based right back Fran Karacic returns from injury after missing last month’s respective 3-0 and 1-0 wins over China and Vietnam.

The Socceroos – who have won 10 straight matches on the road to next year’s World Cup in Qatar – top Group B of the third round of AFC qualifiers with six points from two games.

The top two teams from Groups A and B will automatically qualify for the World Cup.

“We made a great start to the (third) round of qualifying last month, however our focus immediately after the Vietnam win, and while the players have been back at their clubs, has been on our next match against Oman and continuing our World Cup journey by securing another three points on matchday three,” Arnold said.

“I am very happy with the squad that we will have with us in Qatar and Japan for our next two matches.

“Many of the boys will carry exceptional club form into camp, and the fact that we will be together again so soon after the September window will allow us to quickly reconnect and build on what we worked on in the time that we had together last month.

“When you’re talking to the boys, they’re starting to believe that they can win every game, which is fantastic, and that’s what I expect of the boys.”

Arnold’s coaching staff has been boosted by the return of regular assistants Tony Vidmar and Rene Meulensteen, who both missed last month’s qualifiers in Doha and Hanoi.

Vidmar was serving a double quarantine period following his return from the Olympics, while Meulensteen had Covid.

However, goalkeeper coach John Crawley has not travelled for these matches after only recently serving two weeks of quarantine in Australia.

Instead, Tony Franken, who was in Ireland with the Matildas, will coach keepers Mat Ryan, Danny Vukovic and Lawrence Thomas for the current camp.

Socceroos squad: Daniel Arzani, Aziz Behich, Martin Boyle, Milos Degenek, Kenny Dougall, Mitchell Duke, Callum Elder, Denis Genreau, Rhyan Grant, Ajdin Hrustic, Jackson Irvine, Chris Ikonomidis, Jimmy Jeggo, Fran Karacic, Awer Mabil, Ryan McGowan, Riley McGree, Aaron Mooy, Tom Rogic, Mathew Ryan, Trent Sainsbury, Harry Souttar, Adam Taggart, Lawrence Thomas, Danny Vukovic.

FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 – AFC Asian Qualifiers (Third Round)

Matchday 3: Australia v Oman

Friday, October 8

Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar

Kick-off: 5.30am AEDT

Broadcast: Live on 10 and 10 Play – pre-game coverage from 5am (AEDT)

Matchday 4: Japan v Australia

Tuesday, October 12

Saitama Stadium, Saitama, Japan

Kick-off: 9.14pm (AEDT)

Broadcast: Live on 10 Bold and 10 Play – pre-game coverage from 8.30pm (AEDT)

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