The Socceroos have been rocked by 'devastating' news on the eve of their opening match at the World Cup, with star defender Martin Boyle ruled out with injury. Coach Graham Arnold punted on selecting Boyle but the influential speedster hasn't been able to train with the main squad since arriving in Qatar.
The Socceroos have summoned Marco Tilio into their 26-man squad to replace Boyle, who hurt his knee on October 28 playing for his Scottish club Hibernian. And while creative midfielder Ajdin Hrustic has been cleared of his ankle injury, he won't start against France in Australia's cup opener on Tuesday night (Wednesday 0600 AEDT).
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"That is probably the hardest thing, the devastating thing, he has been so important ... and has probably been one of our best players right through the whole campaign," Arnold told reporters on Sunday about Boyle.
"But at the end of the day, we can't do anything about it now. It's devastating news for Martin and the family. But at the end of the day we pretty much knew it was going to be touch and go when we selected him, that is why we brought Tilio over as a standby and back-up player.
"But Martin is in great spirits. He is going to stay on here and be part of it still and be brings such energy to the camp and to the players. And as I said, it's devastating news for Martin but for Marco Tilio and the rest of the players, it's all about performance now."
Boyle's absence gives 21-year-old Tilio a late lifeline after being considered unlucky to be overlooked for the original squad. The Melbourne City winger has been training with the Socceroos in Doha as a standby player.
"He has integrated really well," Arnold said of Tilio. "I called him obviously to tell him he wasn't part of the (original) 26 but at the same time he was on standby.
"We were probably, to be honest, 80-20 that Boyle would have been out. But we had to give him every last minute and every last chance to try and get fit especially because of the sacrifice and everything that he has done through the whole campaign.
"The medical staff have done everything they possibly can and yesterday was pretty much the last chance and it didn't come through well."
Socceroos fans left gutted for Martin Boyle
Veteran winger Mathew Leckie says Boyle's agony will be sourced for extra motivation for the Socceroos.
"We're all sad for him because he did so much and contributed so much to getting us here," Leckie told reporters.
"It's just another reason for us to do it for him. He's devastated. But one thing is, he obviously gave everything he could to try to get himself fit. He wanted to give it a real crack and it was just not meant to be."
The 21-year-old Tilio was shattered to be overlooked for Australia's original 26-man squad. But with doubt over Boyle, he was flown to Doha as a standby player and Leckie backed his Melbourne City colleague to now grasp his opportunity.
"When he found out that he wasn't selected originally, it was a tough day for him, no doubt," Leckie said.
"It's almost like a second chance and I think his mentality is ... regardless of what is before, he's here now. It's funny how football works."
Fans were also left shattered for Boyle, taking to social media to express their sadness.
Awful news that he won’t get a world champ medal but we move
— blews footy (@BlewsFooty) November 20, 2022
Oh no, he is Australia's best player. Losing him is devastating, we need Kuol more than ever now.
— Mohamed Hassan (@Final8oss) November 20, 2022
So sad for Boyle for this to happen again and he will be a big miss. Right decision however we can’t be going in with players who are not at least fit to come off the bench from the get go. Happy for tills he will be great!
— J.\cob🟢🟡🇦🇺 (@Jacob01Aus) November 20, 2022
Gutted for Boyle but tilio is definitely capable of making an impact for this team.
Also does this confirm that Hrustic is fit and staying in the squad?
— Alex 🦘 (@alexwswmufc) November 20, 2022
That’s devastating of the whole tournament imo
— Conradreturns_7 (@Conradreturns_7) November 20, 2022
sad to hear Martin boyle is out!! huge loss
— james dunn (@theservoguyd) November 20, 2022
This is the worst possible news!
Name 1 player that deserves to be there; as a result of the qualifiers above Boyle? TRAGIC!
— Brad Curtis🇦🇺🇩🇪🏴🇦🇺🇦🇺 (@BradJCurtis2) November 20, 2022
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