The Socceroos are set for a major boost with playmaker Ajdin Hrustic fit to start against Tunisia on Saturday night.
The attacking midfielder has played 20 times for the Socceroos and was a key figure in qualification for the Qatar tournament, including scoring the winner against UAE that booked the Socceroos a place in the playoff against Peru.
An ankle ligament injury with his Italian top-flight club Hellas Verona last month put Hrustic’s World Cup dream in doubt, and he wasn’t fit enough to take to the field against France.
But the crafty left-footer has been rated 95 per cent fit by Socceroos boss Graham Arnold.
“And the other 5% doesn’t matter,” Arnold joked. “[Hrustic] can start. We’ll see how he is … and make sure he’s ready to go.”
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ARNOLD TIPPED FOR SHOCK SELECTION
After right-back Nathaniel Atkinson was repeatedly exposed by France superstar Kylian Mbappe – in part due to a lack of defensive reinforcements – Arnold will be pondering a switch at that position.
Fellow fullback Fran Karacic is the obvious alternative on the right side, but News Corp’s Adam Peacock predicts veteran Milos Degenek – usually a centre-back, but with experience at right half – could be shifted into the role.
However, Arnold has repeatedly backed Atkinson despite his difficult World Cup debut.
Arnold said: “I just said to Nathaniel Atkinson ‘you’re going to remember this for the rest of your life, mate. You’re going to sit there in 20 years’ time when you retire, with a beer in your hand, telling everyone how you played against one of the best players in the world. And you’re gonna show them two mistakes, but 10 things you did great’.
“You’ve gotta look at the positives and what that kid’s gonna learn out of it. It’s these types of experiences that you’ve gotta focus more on, and to pick them up.”
Degenek confident of Tunisia bounceback | 02:32
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