Tomi Juric has scored eight goals in his 41 international appearances for the Socceroos.Long-time Socceroos striker Tomi Juric could be bumped off the plane to the United Arab Emirates as Graham Arnold faces tough calls in his Asian Cup squad.
Striker Juric is the most high-profile player in doubt for ‘s title defence.
Arnold has brought 41 players – including retiring legends Mile Jedinak and Tim Cahill – into three camps during his tenure to date, casting the net wide before January’s tournament.
And after a listless display against Lebanon, the math could be against Juric as he attempts to secure a spot in the 23-man squad.
Arnold must take three goalkeepers, and is likely to take eight defenders to provide cover for every place in the back line.
Five midfielders seem locked in – Aaron Mooy, Tom Rogic, Massimo Luongo, Jackson Irvine and Mustafa Amini – as well as four wide attackers; Mathew Leckie, Robbie Kruse, Awer Mabil and Scottish recruit Martin Boyle.
Barring injury, that leaves three places remaining and only two are guaranteed to be No.9s.
With four in the mix – Juric, Apostolos Giannou, Jamie Maclaren and Andrew Nabbout – something’s got to give.
And that’s before you begin to consider bolters like Craig Goodwin, unused World Cup attacker Dimi Petratos and recent debutant Jimmy Jeggo.
Should someone like Riley McGree, Terry Antonis or Adam Taggart push on with their A-League campaigns, the equation gets even tougher for Juric.
The 27-year-old hero of Western Sydney’s Asian Champions League triumph has just five starts this season at Swiss club Luzern and managed just one goal – against a second division side.
There’s no disputing Juric’s importance in helping secure a place at this year’s World Cup.
Since debuting in 2013, Juric has 41 caps for eight goals; five scored in crunch qualifiers on the road to Russia.
But like Bailey Wright, James Troisi and other stalwarts of the Ange Postecoglou era, a new coach’s style may leave him behind.
Arnold has stressed the importance of “speed and mobility” in his sides but denied that leaves Juric out of the mix.
“Tomi is quite mobile. He gives us a different dimension on how to play,” he said on Tuesday night.
“The system we’re playing with, the three nines … that system gives you flexibility, but it gives you speed and you can’t stop speed.”