Striker light! World Cup hero the latest blow to Socceroos’ Asian Cup campaign
Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has another massive headache ahead of January’s Asian Cup with World Cup goal scoring hero Mathew Leckie likely to miss the tournament with a right hamstring injury.
Leckie, whose brilliant solo goal against Denmark sent Australia to the second round of last year’s World Cup, limped off during the second half of Melbourne City’s 1-1 Asian Champions League draw with Zhejiang FC on Tuesday night.
Scans have since revealed a tear that will sideline the goalscorer for at least a month.
“Leckie will be ruled out for several key A-League fixtures including next Saturday’s Melbourne derby; the injury coming at a disappointing time ahead of the Socceroos beginning their AFC Asian Cup campaign next month,” a Melbourne City statement read.
“Leckie will be reviewed regularly throughout his rehabilitation program by club medical staff and we look forward to seeing him back on the pitch soon.”
Leckie, who was part of Australia’s 2015 Asian Cup triumph, scored the winner in a 1-0 victory over Denmark at last year’s World Cup, which sent the Socceroos through to the knockout stages.
The 32-year-old had missed a large chunk of the ALM season after a knee injury suffered on Socceroos duties and had been building minutes and form before his hamstring setback.
Leckie’s unavailability compounds Arnold’s woes ahead of the Asian Cup, with Brandon Borrello (foot) and Ryan Strain (groin) already ruled out of the continental showpiece.
Captain Mat Ryan (cheekbone), Riley McGree (foot) and Nathaniel Atkinson (ankle) are also racing the clock ahead of Australia’s opening match against India on January 13.
With Leckie and Borrello sidelined, fellow striker Jamie Maclaren is also managing an ankle concern.
But Maclaren remains in the selection frame after scoring four goals in seven ALM appearances for Melbourne City this season.
Melbourne Victory’s Bruno Fornaroli has also forced his way into calculations with 11 goals in seven appearances, twice netting four in a single match.
Victory coach Tony Popovic believes 36-year-old Fornaroli is continuing to improve, noting the Uruguay-born forward’s increased level of sharpness in the box.
“He wants more goals and that’s the attitude you want from strikers,” Popovic said.
“The (Victory) players are very keen to keep supporting him with the service and if the team keeps growing it gives him more opportunity to get in the Socceroos.
“He has to be in the mind of the national team coach because he’s scoring goals and he’s producing.”
Japan-based Mitch Duke and Portsmouth’s Kusini Yengi present other attacking options for Arnold.