Mitch Langerak has come out of international retirement to challenge Socceroos skipper Mat Ryan for Australia’s goalkeeper spot.
The Japan-based former Melbourne Victory custodian announced in May last year that he was hanging up his international gloves due to his reluctance to spend extended periods away from his family when Covid-19 was rife.
However, following further discussions with Socceroos coach Graham Arnold, the 34-year-old Queenslander – who has starred for Nagoya Grampus since joining the J1 League club in 2018 – has been named in Australia’s squad for this month’s two-game series against New Zealand and has World Cup selection in his sights.
“What stuck with me was the initial conversation we had when he first retired (from Socceroos duty) because I could feel that it was really forced upon him and pushed upon him around Covid, and the fact with how strict it was (in Japan) with all the protocols,” Arnold said.
“He didn’t want to leave his family, and be away so much from his wife and two very young children. It was a very difficult decision for him to make at that time.
“I tried to convince him not to make it, but that’s what he felt was best at the time.”
However, Langerak – who has eight Socceroos caps – and Arnold remained in contact during Australia’s successful World Cup qualifying campaign.
“When we won games, I’d get a text from Mitch saying ‘congrats’ and we knew that he was watching from afar,” Arnold said.
“He’s been in Japan, he’s been playing well, he’s had a lot of football at Nagoya, and we want to build depth for that goalkeeping position. That’s why I went down that avenue of bringing him back.”
Langerak, Ryan – who is playing regular first-team football again since his move from Spain to Danish outfit FC Copenhagen – and Sydney FC’s Andrew Redmayne will be the three keepers in the Socceroos’ squad for the September 22 (Brisbane) and September 25 (Auckland) matches against the All Whites.
Arnold, who will announce his full squad on Wednesday, said Langerak understood there were “no guarantees” he would be in Australia’s squad for the November 20-December 18 World Cup in Qatar.
“The only guarantee for him at the moment are these two games against New Zealand, and he’ll be in camp for them,” Arnold said.
“His fitness and performances are the most crucial things leading into Qatar.
“It’s about getting all our plans right for the World Cup. We need to make sure that if anything does happen to any of the goalkeepers, that we’re ready for plan B and plan C.”