Martin Boyle named in Australia squad but doubts remain over Hibs winger's involvement
Martin Boyle has been named in the Australia squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Saudi Arabia and China but remains a doubt for both matches after the Covid-19 outbreak at Hibs.
Easter Road chief executive Ben Kensell confirmed that discussions were taking place with the Australian authorities over the 28-year-old’s involvement in the upcoming international break, with Australia hosting the Saudis on November 11 and facing China on November 16.
Boyle has been named in Graham Arnold’s squad but the Socceroos head coach admits there is still uncertainty surrounding the availability of the winger, who has scored five goals in ten games for his country including strikes against Oman and China during World Cup qualifying.
“[Boyle] is one of the issues at the moment,” Arnold said at a press conference announcing his squad, with former Hibs striker Jamie Maclaren among those recalled to the group.
“He’s double vaccinated and everything, but he was considered a close contact to one of the Hibs players that got Covid-19, and two of their games were postponed.
“We’re still waiting.”
A total of 15 Hibs players as well as three members of staff tested positive for Covid-19 with a further four members of the playing squad forced into isolation.
Hibs could benefit if Boyle is unable to travel for the World Cup qualifiers, with their next game against Rangers in the Premier Sports Cup semi-final coming just five days after the Socceroos are scheduled to face China.
While the flight time from the UAE to Scotland is considerably shorter than from China and would lessen concerns over the amount of time spent travelling, it remains to be seen how the virus will affect players’ recovery, giving Jack Ross a potential headache ahead of the Hampden clash.
Meanwhile, the Socceroos’ qualifier against China will be played in the United Arab Emirates after it was agreed to play the fixture on neutral territory.
A statement from the Chinese Football Association read: “After negotiations with all related parties and the confirmation of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), China will play against Oman and Australia on November 11 and 16 respectively in Sharjah.”
China have been forced to play all of their matches overseas owing to tight restrictions on travel during the Covid-19 pandemic which severely limit arrivals into the country.