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The Socceroos‘ preparation for the must-win World Cup qualifier against Japan on Thursday has been plunged into further chaos by the withdrawal of key midfielder Tom Rogic.

Celtic star Rogic will stay in Scotland for treatment after he injured his ankle in his team’s 4-0 league win over Ross County.

His absence compounded that of fellow midfielders Aaron Mooy and Jackson Irvine  tested positive for Covid-19, while Riley McGree (calf) who also won’t feature at Sydney’s Olympic stadium.

Sydney FC defender Alex Wilkinson, 37, has been called up by coach Graham Arnold after Melbourne Victory’s Matthew Spiranovic – his first-choice replacement – also tested positive to Covid-19.    

Kuwait-based centre-back Ryan McGowan won’t play on Thursday, but will be in the selection mix for the match against Saudi Arabia in Jeddah on March 30.

Arnold has endured his own Covid dramas in recent days.

The build up for the Socceroos' must win World Cup qualifier against Japan on Thursday in Sydney has been plunged into further chaos after key midfielder Tom Rogic was a late withdrawal due to injury

The build up for the Socceroos' must win World Cup qualifier against Japan on Thursday in Sydney has been plunged into further chaos after key midfielder Tom Rogic was a late withdrawal due to injury

The build up for the Socceroos’ must win World Cup qualifier against Japan on Thursday in Sydney has been plunged into further chaos after key midfielder Tom Rogic was a late withdrawal due to injury

Sydney FC defender Alex Wilkinson, 37, has been called up by coach Graham Arnold due to a raft of unavailable players

Sydney FC defender Alex Wilkinson, 37, has been called up by coach Graham Arnold due to a raft of unavailable players

Sydney FC defender Alex Wilkinson, 37, has been called up by coach Graham Arnold due to a raft of unavailable players

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold was fined $25,000 by Football Australia for breaking NSW health protocols - he has since apologised for his 'error of judgement'

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold was fined $25,000 by Football Australia for breaking NSW health protocols - he has since apologised for his 'error of judgement'

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold was fined $25,000 by Football Australia for breaking NSW health protocols – he has since apologised for his ‘error of judgement’

After testing positive to Covid-19 he was fined $25,000 by Football Australia for  breaking NSW health protocols by flouting isolation rules and going for a swim on Sunday at North Narrabeen on Sydney’s northern beaches.

Arnold was spotted by numerous members of the public not wearing a mask, with FA left with no choice but to heavily fine the head coach.

‘I sincerely apologise for my error of judgement on Sunday,’ Arnold said.

‘I accept that I should not have left my home as per the NSW self-isolation protocols and will remain at my property until my self-isolation window concludes. I also accept the sanctions that come because of this error.’

The $25,000 fine will be donated to the Red Cross flood relief fund.   

Arnold’s Socceroos need to beat both Japan and Saudi Arabia to gain automatic entry to this year’s World Cup in Qatar, starting in November.

Due to the raft of players not available, it is more likely Australia will finish third in their qualifying group.

That unwanted scenario will result in a single-leg playoff match against the third-placed team from the other Asian qualifying group on June 7 in Qatar.

If the Socceroos win that clash, a two-legged home and away playoff versus the fifth-best nation from South America – at the moment Peru – will be the final mountain to climb.

Midfielder Denis Genreau said the Socceroos can overcome the obstacles to gain automatic qualification.

‘The way that ‘Arnie’ (Arnold) has prepared the team and the way that all boys are, we know that we’re ready to face anything that’s thrown at us,’ he told News Corp.

‘Nothing’s ever easy when we’re qualifying for a World Cup. Players are expected to perform at their best under pressure, so you just have to get yourself ready mentally.

‘We’ve got plenty of players that can step up and do a great job.’

Source: DailyMail Sports

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