Australia coach Graham Arnold explains 'energising' reaction after first call-up for Hearts defender Nathaniel Atkinson

Australia national coach Graham Arnold today called up Hearts defender Nathaniel Atkinson for the first time.

The defender, who arrived in Edinburgh from Melbourne City in January, graduates to the senior Socceroos squad after representing his country at under-20 and under-23 level.

He has played regularly since joining Hearts and Arnold named him as one of five uncapped players in a 27-man squad for this month’s World Cup qualifiers against Japan and Saudi Arabia.

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“This window represents a great opportunity for our players and staff to do something truly special for Australian football,” Arnold told the Football Australia website. “We will be focusing all our energies on producing two great performances against Japan and Saudi Arabia and lifting the Socceroos to the World Cup.

Hearts defender has been called up by Australia for the first time.

“But I truly view March 2022 as a win-win window for this group. With a play-off spot for June already locked in, if required, the players will be able to come to camp with clear minds as to what’s ahead of them, and enjoy the time that they have working hard together and playing in front of their family, friends, and fans.

“I am energised by the messages that I have received from the boys over the past two days after they were notified of their selections.

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“That it means as much to a Bruno [Fornaroli], Nathaniel [Atkinson], Nick [D’Agostino], Kye [Rowles], or Gianni [Stensness], players who have yet to take the pitch for Australia, as it does for a Maty [Ryan] or ‘Lecks’ [Mathew Leckie] highlights to me that they can’t wait to be back together to tackle this challenge head-on and continue this great journey together.”

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