Hibs face derby sweat over Martin Boyle as Australia World Cup qualifying fixtures are confirmed
Hibs face an Edinburgh derby sweat over influential forward Martin Boyle after details of Australia’s final phase of World Cup qualifying was confirmed.
The Socceroos came through the second stage with eight straight wins, the winger having scored one and assisted one in the three games he played.
After this morning’s draw in Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, Graham Arnold’s men know the opponents standing between them and a ticket to Qatar next year.
Australia were drawn in Group B alongside Japan, Saudi Arabia, China PR, Oman, and Vietnam. The group winners and runners-up in both groups will automatically qualify for the 2022 World Cup while the third-placed teams will advance to a play-off to determine which nation contests the intercontinental play-off.
Matchdays are scheduled for September 2, September 7, October 7, October 12, November 11, and November 16 this year, with fixtures on January 27, February 1, March 24 and March 29 2022.
While the matches are scheduled to take place during international breaks, Hibs run the risk of losing Boyle for a handful of fixtures this year assuming he is selected for each squad.
Australia are in action on September 7 with the first Edinburgh derby of the season taking place four days later, potentially impacting Boyle’s readiness to participate given the quick turnaround between international match and Scottish Premiership meeting.
However, the 28-year-old will almost certainly be ruled out of the matches against Motherwell on January 26 2022, Livingston on January 29, and possibly St Mirren on February 5, with the Socceroos in action on January 27.
Arnold is hopeful that Australia will be given the green light to host some matches on home soil but there remains the possibility of matches taking place at a centralised location, as they were during the last round of qualifying with the team playing all four fixtures in Kuwait.
Meanwhile, Hibs appear to have moved on from Boyle’s international team-mate Jackson Irvine with the signing of Jake Doyle-Hayes. The former Hull midfielder spent the second half of last season at Easter Road and had a contract on the table while he was on international duty but his ongoing hesitancy to commit has prompted the club to look elsewhere.