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Former Everton, Red Bulls star Cahill makes Australia’s provisional squad

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SYDNEY (AP) Tim Cahill has been included in Australia’s provisional squad for this year’s World Cup in Russia, boosting his prospects of being selected for a fourth World Cup.

Cahill was among 32 players picked in an expanded training squad, announced by coach Bert van Marwijk on Monday, but the veteran forward faces an anxious wait before knowing whether he will make the final cut for Russia.

The preliminary squad will be trimmed to 26 or 27 players ahead of a pre-tournament camp in Turkey later this month before the final 23-man roster is chosen on June 4.

The 38-year-old Cahill is Australia’s all-time leading scorer with 50 goals from 105 international appearances, but he has struggled for form and match time in recent months.

He rejoined English Championship club Millwall in January to improve his fitness but has played a total of just 63 minutes from 10 matches and failed to score any goals, but van Marwijk told a news conference his big match experience was highly valued.

“He is a special case … he is special in everything,” van Marwijk said. “He is 38 and maybe one of the best-ever players for Australia. He is a very good striker.

“He doesn’t play (at the moment), maybe five or 10 or 20 minutes. Also, he has a problem that he is suspended and I have to take a decision whether to take him to the world championship.

“He is not 19 like (Daniel) Arzani – he’s twice as old – but is also a player who can make a difference.”

Arzani, who is regarded as one of Australia’s brightest young prospects after helping Melbourne City win this season’s A-League title, also made the provisional squad. The teenage winger, who is also eligible to play for Iran, could become the youngest Australian to play at a World Cup if he makes the final cut.

There were few shocks in the makeup of the squad with van Marwijk sticking with the experienced core of players who guided the Socceroos through the long qualifying phase although the Dutchman did include one surprise by picking uncapped defender Fran Karacic.

Born and raised in Croatia, Karacic has never set foot in Australia but is eligible to play for the Socceroos because his father is Australian. Van Marwijk said Karacic was picked because Australia has a shortage of quality right backs.

“Everybody knows that the right defending position, I don’t have a lot of choice for that position,” van Marwijk said. “He is already the captain of his team, at 21-years-old.

“He plays only right-back and we don’t have a lot of players in that position … it’s a position we discuss a lot.”

Striker Jamie Maclaren was also recalled to the squad after some strong performances for Hibernian in the Scottish Premiership. Maclaren hasn’t played for Australia since a qualifier against Thailand in November.

Australia is drawn in Group C at the World Cup alongside France, Peru and Denmark.

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Australia squad:

Goalkeepers: Brad Jones, Mitch Langerak, Mat Ryan, Danny Vukovic.

Defenders: Aziz Behich, Milos Degenek, Alex Gersbach, Matthew Jurman, Fran Karacic, James Meredith, Josh Risdon, Trent Sainsbury, Aleksandar Susnjar, Bailey Wright.

Midfielders: Josh Brillante, Jackson Irvine, Mile Jedinak, Robbie Kruse, Massimo Luongo, Mark Milligan, Aaron Mooy, Tom Rogic, James Troisi.

Forwards: Daniel Arzani, Tim Cahill, Apostolos Giannou, Tomi Juric, Mathew Leckie, Jamie Maclaren, Andrew Nabbout, Dimitri Petratos, Nikita Rukavytsya.