European fitness boost for Hearts in Riga as Cammy Devlin eyes a date with World champions France
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The 24-year-old is in national coach Graham Arnold’s squad for the first time and could make his debut later this month against New Zealand. Tynecastle colleague Nathaniel Atkinson is also called up, with Arnold stating publicly that this is every player’s chance to secure a squad place for November’s World Cup.
Australia’s opening match is against Kylian Mbappe and France on November 22 in Al Wakrah. Devlin is desperate to be involved. He credited Hearts with helping him earn international recognition and now needs consistent performances at club level to stay in the Socceroos squad.
He will play in Thursday’s Europa Conference League tie against Riga FS knowing European displays could be his key to the World Cup. “That’s exactly right. I’ve always said I wanted to get into the squad but the only way to make that possible is if I perform well week-in, week-out with Hearts,” he said.
“I’ve earned my first call up and that’s the first step. My goal is to hopefully go to the World Cup. It’s a pretty surreal feeling to even get the chance to talk about that. I’m so focused on making it possible but the only way that will even be a possibility, and something I won’t even think about, is if I perform for Hearts.
“It feels pretty good to have been called up. I think everyone knows I have been wanting this for a long time and to finally get it is a relief. I am very excited, not just for me but my family. I’ve got two games before I get into camp and we want to win both of them, that starts on Thursday. I’m fully focused on that.
“Some of the best players in the world are playing for France but players like me don't need much of an incentive to give my all. This is just another thing to make me work that bit harder.
“It's hard knowing in the back of your head that there's a World Cup in November and, being someone like me who's pretty desperate to be there, it's difficult to not think about it.
“If I don't play well for Hearts then I won't even be under consideration for the World Cup, so that's my main focus. For anyone, playing for your country is a childhood dream. That dream could be about to come true for me.
It's now about getting my head down and trying as hard as I can for Hearts every time I put the jersey on.”
Hearts received a pre-match fitness boost ahead of their Europa Conference League tie when defender Craig Halkett and winger Alan Forrest both travelled to Latvia. Halkett has not played for almost a month, whilst Forrest was nursing a foot complaint.
“Forrest is here, Halkett is here,” said Hearts manager Robbie Neilson. “Craig has been important to us but the problems we’ve had recently has been the selection of the back three/back four because we’ve had a lot of injuries.
“We’ve had Rowles out, we’ve had Halkett, Kingsley out, Michael Smith, Atkinson. It has been difficult to get a real set group and get stability in the team.”