Hearts ace and three ex-Hibs players make Australia squad for crucial World Cup play-off
Hearts right-back Nathaniel Atkinson has been included in the Australian squad for their crucial World Cup play-off next month.
The 22-year-old made his international debut earlier this year in the Socceroos’ dead-rubber conclusion to their group stage as they were defeated 1-0 by Saudi Arabia.
By finishing behind their past opponents and group leaders Japan, Graham Arnold’s side have been forced into navigating the play-offs to make their way to the finals in Qatar later this year.
After playing Jordan in an international friendly, they face the United Arab Emirates in the Asian Football Confederation Play-off on June 7. The winner of that match will then take on Peru in the Intercontinental Play-off on June 13 for a place at Qatar. Both matches are being held in Doha.
Atkinson joined Hearts from Melbourne City in January on a three-and-a-half-year deal. The Tasmanian native made 20 appearances, including the Scottish Cup final defeat to Rangers.
Team-mate Cammy Devlin will have to wait further for his international bow. The midfielder was in line to receive a call-up in the last squad before injury truncated the remainder of his 2021/22 season.
Three ex-Hibs players have also found their way into Arnold’s squad. Included is Martin Boyle, who moved from Easter Road to Saudi side Al-Faisaly in the January window. He’s joined by Jackson Irvine and Jamie Maclaren.
Irvine enjoyed a fruitful loan spell in Leith last year as he helped Jack Ross’ side reach the final of the Scottish Cup. Maclaren, meanwhile, was a popular loanee in 2018 where he helped Neil Lennon’s team finish fourth with a club-record points total in the Scottish top flight.