Soccer-Rogic, Mooy opt out of Australia's World Cup qualifiers

MELBOURNE, May 25 (Reuters) - Australia’s two most experienced playmakers Aaron Mooy and Tom Rogic have opted out of World Cup qualifiers in June, coach Graham Arnold said on Tuesday.

The pair were missing from a 31-man squad released on Tuesday for Asian qualifiers against Kuwait, Taiwan, Nepal and Jordan.

Arnold told reporters Shanghai Port midfielder Mooy wanted to reunite with his family, having not seen them since December.

“Tommy Rogic, he has a small injury to deal with and the only time to get that better and get that ready is now,” Arnold said of the Scotland-based midfielder.

“We’ve got a very strong squad, I’d rather focus on the boys that are here.”

Australia are top of Group B in Asia after winning all four of their matches before the COVID-19 pandemic halted qualifying.

The eight group winners and four best runners-up advance to the third phase of qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Qatar.

After 18 months without playing an international, Australia resume qualifying against Kuwait on June 3 before playing Taiwan (June 7), Nepal (June 11) and Jordan (June 15), all in Kuwait City.

Arnold included seven uncapped players in his squad: Denis Genreau, Ruon Tongyik, Lawrence Thomas, Fran Karacic, Riley McGree, Connor Metcalfe and Kenneth Dougall.

Arnold doubles as Australia’s Olympic team coach and has been juggling preparations for the Tokyo Games.

Japanese and Olympic officials have pledged the Games will go ahead as planned from July 23, despite surveys showing a majority of Japanese want them cancelled or postponed due to worries over COVID-19.

Arnold said he trusted authorities that his players would be “in good hands”.

“I know I’m being selfish probably on a sporting side of it but I’ll be devastated if the Olympics don’t go ahead .... because to be an Olympian for these kids is a dream come true.”

Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford