Influential midfielder Vince Grella has returned to the Australian squad to face Japan in next week's key FIFA World Cup™ qualifier in Yokohama.
The Blackburn Rovers' holding midfielder was named in a 22-man squad by coach Pim Verbeek for the 11 February showdown with Australia's chief regional rivals. Grella missed Australia's last three qualifying wins over Uzbekistan, Qatar and Bahrain through injury.
Missing though is Grella's Blackburn team-mate Brett Emerton, who has been ruled out for the remainder of the English Premier League season with a cruciate knee ligament injury. The Socceroos will also be without Harry Kewell, who is recovering from an abdominal hernia operation and has only just resumed training with his Turkish club Galatasaray.
Verbeek called in Jade North as defensive cover following his recent transfer from the Newcastle Jets to Incheon United in South Korea. Experienced defender Scott Chipperfield has also been included in the squad, but the Swiss-based player is in doubt with a foot injury, which cost him a transfer to German club Hertha Berlin last month.
Verbeek has called almost exclusively on his European-based contingent for the Japanese showdown, only calling on one domestic player, Queensland Roar central defender Craig Moore, who played in Australia's 0-0 draw with Indonesia in an AFC Asian Cup qualifier in Jakarta last week.
Australia are unbeaten after three wins, and are two points ahead of Japan, who lost ground with a 1-1 home draw with Uzbekistan at Saitama last October. In the other group match next Wednesday, Uzbekistan host Bahrain in Tashkent, whilst Qatar has a bye.
Australian squad - Mark Bresciano (Palermo/ITA), Tim Cahill (Everton/ENG), David Carney (Sheffield United/ENG), Scott Chipperfield (FC Basel/SUI), Chris Coyne (Colchester/ENG), Jason Culina (PSV Eindhoven/NED), Adam Federici (Reading/ENG), Richard Garcia (Hull City/ENG), Vince Grella (Blackburn Rovers/ENG), Brett Holman (AZ Alkmaar/NED), Mile Jedinak (Genclerbirligi/TUR), Josh Kennedy (Karlsruhe/GER), Scott McDonald (Celtic/SCO), Craig Moore (Queensland Roar/AUS), Lucas Neill (West Ham/ENG), Jade North (Incheon/KOR), Michael Petkovic (Sivasspor/TUR), Mark Schwarzer (Fulham/ENG), Shane Stefanutto (Lyn Oslo/NOR), Mile Sterjovski (Derby County/ENG), Carl Valeri (Grosseto/ITA), Luke Wilkshire (Dinamo Moscow/RUS)