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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Mile Jedinak back for Australia to face Syria in 2018 AFC World Cup playoff

Mile Jedinak returns to Australia's squad set to face Syria, while Nikita Ruka Rukavytsya rejoins after a 3-year absence.
Tim Cahill discusses his new role with Australia and praises Thailand's resilience in their World Cup Qualifier.
Tomi Juric was on the scoresheet as Australia now are made to wait over their 2018 World Cup hopes.
Australia's Tomi Juric feels his side could have easily won by five goals and now anxiously await Japan's result.

Captain Mile Jedinak has been recalled by head coach Ange Postecoglou for Australia's 2018 AFC World Cup playoff against Syria next month.

The Aston Villa midfielder missed the Socceroos' latest qualifiers against Japan and Thailand, as well as June's Confederations Cup, due to a groin injury.

But he made his comeback for the English second-tier side last week, and has been rewarded with a place in a 30-man preliminary squad announced on Tuesday.

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Postecoglou retained 22 of 23 players named for the most recent qualifiers, but added Jedinak, along with other European-based players Mile Jedinak, Aziz Behich, Mark Birighitti, Craig Goodwin, James Jeggo and Nikita Rukavytsya, plus defenders Matthew Jurman from Suwon Samsung Bluewings in Korea Republic and Josh Risdon from Western Sydney Wanderers FC.

The squad will be trimmed to 23 players before the Socceroos travel to Malaysia on Oct. 1, ahead of the first leg in Malacca on Oct. 5. The second leg will be played in Sydney on Oct. 10.

"There is a short turnaround from the last matches, so we are fully focused on these upcoming fixtures against Syria," Postecoglou said.

"The players that we have selected for these crucial matches all have the benefit of several club matches under their belts over the past few weeks, and I am confident whichever 23 players we settle on will be able to do the job next month.

Mile Jedinak captained Australia to Asia Cup glory on home soil in 2015.

"Now that the match venues have been confirmed, we will prepare for our fixtures against Syria just like every other international opposition we faced throughout this campaign."

The biggest surprise in Tuesday's announcement was a recall for Israel-based striker Rukavytsya, who earned the last of his 16 caps in 2014. The former Perth Glory and Western Sydney Wanderers striker, 30, has scored four goals in seven appearances for Maccabi Haifa this season.

Australia's record scorer Tim Cahill will be in line to win his 103rd cap as he aims to add to his tally of 48 goals.

The Asian champions finished third in Group B in the third round of AFC World Cup qualifying, behind Saudi Arabia on goal difference, meaning they will need to negotiate two playoffs to advance to a fourth consecutive World Cup finals.

If they're able to overcome Syria, they will face the fourth-placed CONCACAF team -- potentially the United States -- in another two-legged playoff in November.

Australia squad

Goalkeepers: Mat Ryan, Mitch Langerak, Danny Vukovic, Mark Birighitti

Defenders: Aziz Behich, Milos Degenek, Alex Gersbach, Mathew Jurman, Ryan McGowan, Josh Risdon, Trent Sainsbury, Brad Smith, Bailey Wright

Midfielders: Mustafa Amini, Craig Goodwin, Jackson Irvine, Mile Jedinak, James Jeggo, Robbie Kruse, Mathew Leckie, Massimo Luongo, Awer Mabil, Mark Milligan, Aaron Mooy, Tom Rogic, James Troisi

Strikers: Tim Cahill, Tomi Juric, Jamie Maclaren, Nikita Rukavytsya

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