Flyin' Strain making strong Socceroos case

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Hearts’ Nathaniel Atkinson and Brescia’s Fran Karacic remain the favourites to get the nod for Qatar - but Strain has provided Arnold with a conundrum after turning his debut season in the Scottish Premiership into a tour de force with the under resourced but over achieving Saints.

The former Adelaide United and Maccabi Haifa defender certainly believes he can bring something extra to Arnold’s blend, if the opportunity comes to build on September’s debut against New Zealand.

While Atkinson and Karacic have been beset by recent injuries, Strain, 25, has made 11 appearances this season for fifth-placed St Mirren and confidence and belief are in abundance.

“I’m able to defend and also offer a lot going forward and I think I can bring those attributes to Australia,” Strain said. “I think I can bring something different and just hope I’ve done enough. I got a taste of it with those 20 minutes (off the bench) against New Zealand, and of course you want more.

“I’ve had a pretty good season for far with my club, so who knows? You want to kick on and make more squads.

“My debut was a long time coming and I was really proud when the moment came.

To get in that final 26 and go to the World Cup would be a dream come true.”

With Australia likely to play on the counter attack against champion France in its Group D opener on 23 November, Strain has that component to his game.

“I’m used to playing that way at St Mirren against bigger teams and you’d probably expect Australia to play a little bit that way at the World Cup at times,” he said.

“But I’m not expecting anything - if I do get picked it’ll be the proudest moment of my life. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Strain plays alongside fellow World Cup hopeful, midfielder Keanu Baccus, in a side tipped to finish bottom but defying the pundits.

“Keanu has been excellent for us - we combine well down the right and have a really good connection,” he explained.

“I actually think he offers a lot, whether for us at club level or for Australia. It would be amazing if we both got picked. But it’s hard enough for one - and for two. Well let’s see.

“I feel I’m doing all I can - Graham Arnold is a great coach and he knows what he’s doing, and whoever he selects it’ll be right for Australia.

“For me, coming to Scotland was about playing 90 minutes every week and challenging myself and making myself better as a player.

“I think they like us here (there are 11 Aussies scattered across the competition) because we’re really hard working.

“You have players like Cammy Devlin at Hearts who is a little rat in the midfield breaking up play.

“He’s typical of us Aussies here - energetic and eager to prove himself at this level.” Strain has a friendly rivalry with Atkinson, the front runner for a seat on the plane to Doha.

“He’s a great player - and I’m sure he’d probably say the same about me as well,” he said.

“He’s an attacking fullback and I think he’s a great bloke. I wish him the best whatever happens.”

Strain is contracted until mid-2024 but has ambitions to switch to the Championship in England at some point.

“You want to go as far as you can and I’m sure St Mirren would look to move me on if a good offer came in,” he said.

“If something good came up I’d be keen. I think I could do well in the Championship because I get forward, can cross and I’m defensively sound as well.”


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