Rhys Williams hasn't played for Australia since 2011. Picture: Colleen Petch/The Daily Telegraph
The Socceroos can extend their unbeaten run to seven matches if they avoid defeat against Romania at the Estadio Ciudad de Malaga in Spain on Thursday morning (AEST).
After the Australian and Asian based players got the opportunity to press their claims for selection for next month’s crucial World Cup qualifier against Oman at the East Asian Cup in December, it is the turn of the European stars this time around. Middlesbrough midfielder Rhys Williams returns to the national squad for the first time since November 2011, while Jason Davidson, Adam Federici and Michael Zullo will all be involved after lengthy absences. They join international stalwarts Mark Schwarzer and Lucas Neill and Mark Bresciano in the 19 man party headed to Malaga, but Tim Cahill is a notable absentee after being overlooked.
With the retirement of Inter Milan’s defensive lynchpin Cristian Chivu in 2011, Romania lacks any really high profile players, with former Chelsea striker Adrian Mutu probably the most well-known. Despite that, the Tricolorii still have a good chance of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and are three places higher than Australia at 33 on the latest world rankings.
Australia and Romania have never met before in a senior men’s international but will both be confident of victory in Spain. The Socceroos have won seven of their past eight matches, with the only blemish a 1-1 draw with DPR Korea at the East Asian Cup at Hong Kong Stadium in December. The side’s most recent defeat however, came the last time that they played in Europe when suffering a 3-1 international friendly defeat to Scotland in Edinburgh.
Romania has won four of its past five international fixtures and scored a 2-1 friendly win over Belgium in its most recent outing four months ago. Prior to that, they were humbled 4-1 at home to the Netherlands in a Group D European World Cup qualifier.
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